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Bone Scan

Results

The results of a bone scan are usually available within 2 days.

Bone scan
Normal:

The radioactive tracer is evenly spread among the bones. No areas of too much or too little tracer are seen.

Abnormal:

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 Paget's disease).

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 (bone infarction).

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 barium enema).
  • 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.

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerAnne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerMyo Min Han, MD - Nuclear Medicine
Last RevisedOctober 1, 2012
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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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