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