What is a Bone Scan? 6 Important Procedures

A specialized radiology method, a “bone scan”, is used to examine various skeletal bones.

It is done to find areas of chemical and physical change in bone. A bone scan can also check the effectiveness of certain illnesses’ treatments.

A bone scan is a nuclear radiology treatment. A small quantity of a radioactive isotope is utilized in the procedure to aid in examining the bones.

The radioactive substance, also known as a radionuclide or tracer, will collect in regions of aberrant chemical and physical modification in the bone tissue.

The radionuclide emits gamma radiation as a form of radiation. Gamma rays are captured by a scanner, which transforms the information into a picture of the bones.

1. What is a Bone Scan?

An imaging examination called a bone scan is used to identify issues with your bones.

A radiopharmaceutical, sometimes known as a radioactive medication, is safely used in tiny amounts. It has also been called a “dye,” but it doesn’t cause the tissue to get stained.

A bone scan is specifically performed to identify issues with bone metabolism. The breakdown and regrowth of bones are referred to as bone metabolism.

New bone creation is necessary for healing when bones are injured or shattered. A bone scan helps observe and capture aberrant bone metabolic activity.

If cancer has moved from another part of the body, such as the prostate or breast, to the bones, it can be determined via a bone scan. A radioactive substance absorbed by your bones is injected into a vein during a bone scan.

After that, you’ll be observed for several hours. The substance only contains a minimal quantity of radiation, and almost all of it leaves your body in two to three days.

What is a Bone Scan
By mohamed_hassan / Pixabay Copyright 2022

2. Why is a Bone Scan Performed?

The source of unexplained bone pain may be discovered with a bone scan. The test is sensitive to variations in bone metabolism, which the radioactive tracer brings to light in the body.

Your vein receives an injection of a radioactive substance to begin the procedure.

The substance can circulate through your body for two to four hours. Depending on the goal of the bone scan, your doctor might begin imaging immediately.

As the substance flows throughout your body, the bone cells will naturally go toward the areas that need repair.

The substance’s radioactive tracers accumulate where the bone is injured and follow these cells.

After enough time, your doctor will use a sophisticated camera to scan the bones. Dark areas on the image stand in for the locations where the chemical has gathered in damaged areas.

A complete skeleton scan aids in the diagnosis of numerous bone ailments, such as:

1. Fractures

2. Arthritis

3. Bone Paget’s disease

4. Cancer starting in the bones

5. Cancer that has spread to the bones from another location

6. Infection of the bones, artificial joints, or joints

Your doctor might request a bone scan if they think you have a bone problem. A bone scan could perhaps help you with your unidentified bone discomfort.

What is a Bone Scan
By nickwarrilow / Pixabay Copyright 2022

3. Getting Ready for a Bone Scan Procedure

Before a bone scan, you usually don’t need to restrict your diet or activity.

There are no particular prerequisites for a bone scan.

The screening process itself lasts around an hour. If you anticipate having trouble staying motionless for that long, your doctor may prescribe a little sedative to help you unwind.

Inform your doctor if you’ve recently taken a bismuth-containing medication, such as Pepto-Bismol, or if you’ve recently had an X-ray test that used a barium contrast medium.

Results from bone scans can be affected by barium and bismuth.

Due to worries about radiation exposure to the fetus, bone scans are often not done on pregnant or nursing moms.

If you’re pregnant, suspect you might be pregnant, or are nursing a baby, let your doctor know.

4. What are a Bone Scan’s Risks?

Because only a tiny quantity of radionuclide is injected into your vein during the procedure, no protective precautions against radioactive exposure are necessary.

The tracer infusion could result in a small amount of discomfort. Although unlikely, reactions to the tracer could be allergic.

Tell your doctor immediately if you are allergic or sensitive to any medications, including latex or contrast dyes.

A bone scan could damage the fetus, so you should tell your doctor if you are pregnant or think you could be.

Given that the tracer has the potential to contaminate breast milk, you must let your doctor know if you are nursing or breastfeeding.

5. What Happens During a Bone Scan?

A bone scan can be done as an outpatient procedure or as part of your hospital stay. The systems could change depending on your situation and your doctor’s methods.

A bone scan typically happens after this procedure:

  • You could be asked to remove any jewelry, clothing, or anything that might interfere with the treatment.
  • If you need to change out of your clothes, you will be provided with a robe to wear.
  • An intravenous (IV) line will be set up in the hand or arm to infuse the tracer.
  • A vein in your body will receive the injection of the tracer. The tracer will be allowed to concentrate on the bone tissue for one to three hours. During this period, you might be permitted to wander around or even leave the building.
  • Since the marker produces little radiation than a typical X-ray, no one else will be at risk.
  • To help flush away any radiation that does not concentrate within the bone tissue during the waiting period, you should drink several glasses of water (four to six).
  • If your bone scan is already being done to check for bone infection, a series of scans may be carried out immediately after administering the tracer.
  • More scans will be conducted after the tracer has had time to concentrate on the bone tissue.
  • On the scanning table, you will be instructed to remain motionless because any movement could impede the scan’s effectiveness.
  • As the scanner detects the gamma rays emitted by the tracer in the bone tissue, it will gently pass over your numerous times.
  • You might need to move positions to get specific images of the bones during the scan.

While the bone scan is painless, lying motionless for so long during the process may be uncomfortable or painful, especially if you recently had surgery or an intrusive procedure like an accident.

To reduce discomfort or agony, the technologist will take all reasonable comfort measures and finish the treatment as quickly as feasible.

5.1. What Happens After the Bone Scan?

It would help if you slowly stood up off the scanning table after remaining flat during the procedure to avoid feeling lightheaded or dizzy.

Following the operation, you will be instructed to drink plenty of water and frequently urinate for 24 to 48 hours to assist your body flush out any lingering traces.

There will be a look-over to check for any oedema or redness at the IV site. After your surgery, call your doctor as soon as possible if you experience any pain, redness, or swelling where the IV was placed. The origin of these symptoms could be any variety of illnesses or responses.

Following the operation, you will be instructed to drink plenty of water and frequently urinate for 24 to 48 hours to assist your body flush out any lingering traces.

There will be a look-over to check for any oedema or redness at the IV site. After your surgery, call your doctor as soon as possible if you experience any pain, redness, or swelling where the IV was placed. The origin of these symptoms could be any variety of illnesses or responses.

Bone Scan
By OpenClipart-Vectors / Pixabay Copyright 2022

6. Why Might I Need a Bone Scan?

The primary purpose of bone scans is to look for metastatic cancer spread. Cancer cells appear on a bone scan as a hot zone because they proliferate quickly.

This is because the area where the cancer cells are located has a higher rate of bone oxidation and regeneration. To evaluate the efficacy of the treatment, bone scans may also be performed to stage the malignancy before and after treatment.

  • A bone scan technique may also be done for the following reasons, not just those.
  • In cases where standard X-rays do not detect damage, to evaluate for bone trauma
  • to locate difficult-to-find fractures
  • The age of fractures can be established.
  • identifying and evaluating bone infections (osteomyelitis)
  • evaluation of unexplained bone discomfort
  • May identify problems including arthritis, benign bone tumors, Paget’s disease (a bone illness that typically affects persons over 50 and causes the long bones to curve and become thicker and softer).

Suggested Reading- What Causes Bone Cancer: Your Best Guide [2022]

7. Final Words

Nuclear imaging is used to identify and monitor various bone diseases during a bone scan.

To observe internal structures like bones, such as the bones in the body, nuclear imaging uses small amounts of radioactive chemicals (radiotracers), a particular camera that can detect radioactivity, and a computer.

A bone scan is an excellent diagnostic tool for cost and sensitivity.

The test has its restrictions and is always time-consuming, but difficulties are uncommon, and you may typically return to your home or place of employment without any lingering aftereffects.

Try not to assume the worst if your bone scan shows heated patches. Despite its benefits, remember that a bone scan can only reveal whether something is abnormal; it cannot tell what that abnormality is.

Conversely, let your doctor know and ask about further testing possibilities if a scan produces negative consequences but you continue to experience symptoms.

Get a second opinion and request that your records be sent to the specialist before your consultation if your healthcare provider cannot assist you.

You are more than free to ask for a copy of the report for personal use; you will often get it electronically.


Apeksha Soni

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