A bone scan is a test that uses nuclear imaging to help diagnose and track several types of bone disease. Nuclear imaging involves using small amounts of radioactive substances (radiotracers), a special camera that can detect radioactivity, and a computer to see structures such as bones inside the body.
The tracer is absorbed more by cells and tissues that are changing. As a result, a bone scan can be used to find the source of unexplained skeletal pain, bone infection, or a bone injury that can’t be seen on a standard X-ray.
During a bone scan, tiny amounts of radioactive materials (tracers) are injected into a vein in the hand or arm. The amount of time between the injection and scan varies, depending on the reason for the scan. Some images might be taken immediately after the injection. But the main images are taken 2 to 4 hours later to allow the tracer to circulate and be absorbed by your bones. You might be asked to drink several glasses of water while you wait.
You’ll likely be asked to empty your bladder before the scan to remove the unabsorbed tracer from your body. You’ll lie still on a table while an armlike device supporting a tracer-sensitive camera passes back and forth over your body. The scan itself can take up to an hour. The procedure is painless.
The above information is for general education purposes only. Please ask your doctor specific questions during your visit.