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Bone Scan

How It Is Done

A bone scan is usually done by a nuclear medicine technologist. The scan pictures are usually interpreted by a radiologist or nuclear medicine specialist.

You will need to remove any jewelry that might get in the way of the scan. You may need to take off all or most of your clothes. You will be given a cloth or paper covering to use during the test.

Your arm will be cleaned where the tracer will be injected. A small amount of the tracer is injected.

It takes about 2 to 5 hours for the tracer to bind to your bone so that pictures can be taken with a special camera. During this time, you may be asked to drink 4 to 6 glasses of water so your body can wash out the tracer that does not collect in your bones. Just before the scan begins, you will probably be asked to empty your bladder to prevent any radioactive urine from blocking the view of your pelvic bones during the scan.

You will lie on a table, with a large scanning camera above you. It may move slowly above, below, and around your body, scanning for radiation released by the tracer and producing pictures. The camera does not produce any radiation.

You may be asked to move into different positions. You need to lie very still during each scan to avoid blurring the pictures.

A bone scan takes about 1 hour.

How It Feels

You may feel nothing at all from the needle when the tracer is injected, or you may feel a brief sting or pinch. The bone scan is usually painless. You may find it hard to remain still during the scan. Ask for a pillow or blanket to make yourself as comfortable as possible before the scan begins.

The test may be uncomfortable if you are having joint or bone pain. Try to relax by breathing slowly and deeply.

Risks

Allergic reactions to the tracer are very rare. Your body will get rid of most of the tracer through your urine or stool within a day. Be sure to flush the toilet right away and thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water. The amount of radiation is so small that it is not a risk for people to come in contact with you after the test.

You may have some soreness or swelling where the needle went in. These symptoms can usually be relieved by applying moist, warm compresses to your arm.

There is always a slight risk of damage to cells or tissue from being exposed to any radiation, including the low level of radiation released by the tracer in this test.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: October 01, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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