The results of a bone scan are usually available
within 2 days.
The radioactive tracer is
evenly spread among the bones. No areas of too much or too little tracer
The tracer has accumulated in
certain areas of the bone, indicating one or more "hot" spots. Hot spots may be
caused by a fracture that is healing, bone cancer, a bone infection (osteomyelitis),
arthritis, or a disease of abnormal bone
metabolism (such as
Certain areas of the bone lack the presence of tracer, indicating one or more "cold" spots. Cold spots
may be caused by a certain type of cancer (such as
multiple myeloma) or lack of blood supply to the bone
What Affects the Test
Reasons you may not be able to have the test or why the results may not be helpful include:
Pregnancy. A bone scan is not usually done
during pregnancy, because the radiation could damage the developing baby (fetus).
Barium. If a bone scan
is needed, it should be done before any tests that use barium (such as a
The inability to remain
still during the test.
A full bladder, which can block the view of
the pelvic bones.
What To Think About
A bone scan does not distinguish between normal
and abnormal bone growth by itself. So bone scan results must be interpreted
along with your symptoms and the results of
X-ray tests. In addition, other tests such as
a CT scan, an
MRI, blood tests, or a
biopsy may also be needed to further evaluate abnormal
bone scan results.
Some types of cancer or diseases cannot be
identified on a bone scan.
Other Works Consulted
Fischbach FT, Dunning MB III, eds. (2009). Manual of Laboratory and Diagnostic Tests, 8th ed. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.
Pagana KD, Pagana TJ (2010). Mosby’s Manual of Diagnostic and Laboratory Tests, 4th ed. St. Louis: Mosby Elsevier.