A bone scan can be used to locate any problem areas of the spine. The bone scan works by injecting a radioactive chemical, sometimes called a “tracer”, into the bloodstream through an IV. The chemical will attach itself to areas of bone that are undergoing rapid changes. Over a period of several hours, a lot of the tracer accumulates in the problem area(s).
A special camera is then used to take pictures of the skeleton. The chemical tracer is radioactive, and therefore sends out radiation that can be captured by the camera. Specific problem areas show up on the film as dark spots or “hotspots”.
A bone scan is very useful when it is unclear exactly where the problem is in the skeleton. The ability to take a picture that lights up the area where the problem seems to be coming from allows the doctor to pinpoint where to look next. After locating the problem areas, other tests can be done to show more aspects of those specific spots. The bone scan can identify problem areas such as bone tumors and compression fractures. A bone scan can also be used to determine bone density and the bone-thinning condition of osteoporosis.
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