Bone Scan

What is a bone scan?

A bone scan is a test of your bones using a chemical called a radioactive tracer and a scanner.

When is it used?

The bone scan can help find problems with your bones, such as tumors, infection, some types of arthritis, and bone fractures. It can often find problems long before they would show up on a regular X-ray.

How do I prepare for this scan?

  • You may or may not need to take your regular medicines the day of the test. Tell your healthcare provider about all medicines and supplements that you take. Ask your provider if you need to avoid taking any medicine or supplements before the test.
  • Tell your healthcare provider if you have any food or medicine allergies.
  • Tell your provider if you have had kidney problems or an allergy to chemicals, such as contrast dye. Contrast dye is used for some scans.
  • Tell your healthcare provider if you have recently had X-ray tests using barium or have taken medicine that contains bismuth (like Pepto-Bismol). Barium and bismuth can interfere with the test results.
  • Tell your healthcare provider if you are or might be pregnant.
  • Follow any other instructions your healthcare provider gives you.
  • Ask any questions you have before the test. You should understand what your healthcare provider is going to do. You have the right to make decisions about your healthcare and to give permission for any tests or procedures.

Your provider will inject a radioactive chemical into one of your veins (IV) 1 to 3 hours before the scan. After the injection, you will drink several glasses of water to get rid of any chemical that has not been picked up by your bones. You will be asked to go to the bathroom and urinate just before the scan so that your bladder will be empty.

What happens during the scan?

To start the scan, you will lie on an exam table while the scanner moves over your body. You may be asked to get into different positions on the scanner table to get a better scan of certain bones. You need to keep still when you are being scanned. Images are shown on a computer after the scan.

The scanning generally lasts 30 to 60 minutes and does not hurt.

What happens after the scan?

You can go home after the scan is completed. Your body will get rid of the radioactive chemical through your urine within 36 hours. There will be no change in the color of the urine. The amount of radiation injected is small and you will not be a danger to your family.

Ask your healthcare provider:

  • How and when you will hear your test results
  • What symptoms or problems you should watch for and what to do if you have them

Make sure you know when you should come back for another scan or checkup. Keep all appointments for provider visits or tests.

What are the risks of this scan?

Every procedure or treatment has risks. You could have an allergic reaction to the dye. Ask your healthcare provider how this risk applies to you.

The amount of radioactive material given for this scan is very small and is not a risk.

The radioactive chemical may not be safe if you are pregnant or if you are breast-feeding an infant. Women who are pregnant or breast-feeding should not have bone scans.

Be sure to discuss any other questions or concerns that you may have.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2014-11-10
Last reviewed: 2014-11-10
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.

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