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Bone Scan

Woman lying on table underneath scanner. Healthcare provider is adjusting scanner.
A large camera takes images of your bones.

A bone scan is an imaging test that uses a special camera to make images of your bones. It's a nuclear medicine exam that uses a small amount of radioactive material that specifically goes to where there is abnormal production of bone. It's used to diagnose bone problems, such as fractures or cancer. Or it's used to detect cancer that may have spread from another area of the body such as breast, lung, or prostate. It can also be used to diagnose infections and joint problems such as arthritis. It's also used to check joint replacements.

What to tell you healthcare provider

Let the technologist know if you:

  • Take any medicines

  • Are pregnant or think you may be pregnant, or are breastfeeding

  • Have had a nuclear medicine scan before

  • Have had a recent barium study such as a barium enema, esophagram, or upper GI

  • Have any fractures or artificial joints

  • Have any allergies

During your scan appointment

Your bone scan may take up to a half day. Bring something you can do while waiting to have your scan.

Before the scan

  • You will have an IV (intravenous) line placed into a vein in your arm or hand.

  • A tracer (a small amount of radioactive material) is injected into your vein.

  • You may be asked to drink several glasses of water and empty your bladder.

  • Your scan may be done right away or a few hours later. If your scan is done right away, you will have a second scan in a few hours.

During the scan

  • You will lie on a narrow imaging table.

  • A large camera is placed close to your body.

  • Remain as still as you can while the camera takes the pictures. This will ensure the best images. You may be asked to change positions during the scan. This is to help get pictures at different positions.

  • The table or camera may be adjusted to take more pictures.

After your exam

  • Drink plenty of water to help clear the tracer from your body.

  • Your healthcare provider will discuss the test results with you during a follow-up visit or over the phone.

Your next appointment is:________________

Online Medical Reviewer: Kenny Turley PA-C
Online Medical Reviewer: Lu Cunningham RN BSN
Online Medical Reviewer: Neil Grossman MD
Date Last Reviewed: 6/1/2019
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