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Nuclear Medicine

Bone Scans 

What is a Nuclear Medicine Bone Scan?

A bone scan is used to evaluate any degenerative and/or arthritic changes in the joints, to detect bone disease and/or determine the cause of bone pain or inflammation.

How do I Prepare for this Test?

No preparation is required for this exam.  This exam requires the patient to return 3-4 hours after the first appointment time for scanning to be completed.  A return time will be given during the first appointment.

What to Expect During the Bone Scan?

You may be asked to change into a hospital gown before your bone scan.  A technologist will inject the appropriate dose of a radiotracer into a vein. The injection will take 5 to 15 minutes. You may feel some pressure while the radiotracer is injected into your vein.

A radiotracer is a compound made of a radioactive isotope and a pharmaceutical agent.  In the radiotracer used for a bone scan, the pharmaceutical part acts like calcium in your body and is attracted to your bones.  The bones absorb the radiotracer the way they absorb calcium.  The radioactive isotope releases energy detected by a special camera called a gamma camera where digital signals are produced, creating an image and stored by a computer.  The image shows any area where too much or too little of the radiotracer has been absorbed, indicating irregular function of the cells. 

If your doctor has ordered the exam because you might have an infection of the bone or a particular type of fracture, images may be taken during the injection of the radiotracer.  For most studies, you will be asked to wait for 2 to 4 hours before any images are taken.  While you wait, you will be asked to drink 4 8oz servings of liquid.  You should try to urinate frequently to try to eliminate any excess tracer from your body.  You may spend the time in our waiting room or you may leave the hospital.

After the tracer has been absorbed, you will return to the department for imaging.  The technologist will ask you to lie on your back on the exam table positioned between a set of cameras.  Once you are comfortable, the imaging will begin.  The imaging portion typically lasts 30 minutes to 1 hour.  It is important that you remain still while the cameras are on as movement can affect the images and make interpretation difficult.

Our Nuclear Medicine technologists will talk to you in detail about what you can expect before, during and after the procedure and answer any questions you may have.

Because patient care is our top priority, we employ equipment and quality control as well as radiopharmaceutical quality assurance to insure that we are producing the highest image quality for both interpretation and diagnosis.

Risks of the Test

Be sure to notify the technologist if there is any chance you may be pregnant. Radionuclides are unlikely to cause side effects or allergic reactions for most patients.

Following the Test

There are no restrictions following the test.  You may return to your regular activity after the scan is complete.

Results of the Test 

Your ordering physician will receive the results in 24-48 hours.  It is important to discuss the results of your scan with your ordering physician.