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Bone Scan

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.

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.

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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