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Nuclear Medicine Imaging - Bone Scans

The information given below is a brief summary only.  If you are a patient attending for a scan, please read your appointment letter and patient information leaflet carefully for more detailed information.

Before a bone scan is acquired, a small amount of radio-labelled tracer is injected into a vein, usually in the arm or back of the hand. 

It is then necessary to allow around three hours for the tracer to be taken up by the bones, after which the scan can be performed.

A standard scan covers the area from the top of the skull to the lower thigh and will show how the tracer has distributed throughout the bones.  The scan takes around half an hour, during which time patients are asked to lie on the scanner bed and keep as still as possible.  Other areas of the body may also be scanned if they are the site of pain or clinical concern.

A bone scan is a very sensitive test for identifying any areas of abnormal bone activity. Amongst other things, it can show wear and tear of the joints, a healing fracture, infection, or the spread of cancer into the bone.

It is quite common for patients to go on and have an x-ray following their bone scan, as reviewing a bone scan and x-ray together can often help our doctors provide a more useful report.

Information from the scan can be very helpful when deciding how best to manage an illnes or injury that may involve the bones.

Image 1 below shows a bone scan with abnormally high tracer uptake in the patient's right hip.  This was as a result of a fracture that was not seen on x-rays.


Image 1 -  bone scan showing right hip fracture