Patient Education - Lung Cancer Program at UCLA
yourself about lung cancer:
A bone scan is a test that detects areas of increased or decreased bone metabolism
(turnover). The test is performed to identify abnormal processes involving the bone
such as tumor, infection, or fracture.
Scintigraphy - bone
How the Test is Performed
A radiotracer (a bone-seeking radioactive material) is injected into vein, so
it travels through the bloodstream. As the material wears away, it gives off radiation.
This radiation is detected by a camera that slowly scans your body. The camera takes
pictures of how much radiotracer collects in the bones.
If a bone scan is done to see if you have a bone infection, images will be taken
shortly after the radioactive material is injected, as well as 3 to 4 hours later,
when it has collected in the bones. This is called a 3-phase bone scan.
To evaluate metastatic bone disease, images are taken only after the 3 to 4 hour
The scanning part of the test will last about 1 hour and may require you to change
How to Prepare for the Test
You must remove jewelry and other metal objects. You may be asked to wear a hospital
How the Test Will Feel
There is a small amount of pain when the needle is inserted. During the scan
there is no pain. You must remain still during the examination, and you will be instructed
when to change positions by the technologist.
You may experience some discomfort due to lying still for a prolonged period of
Why the Test is Performed
This test can help determine whether there is bone tumor, fracture, infection
(osteomyelitis), or metabolic disorder.
Normal distribution areas appear uniform and gray throughout all the bones in
What Abnormal Results Mean
The images should show that the radioactive material has been evenly distributed
throughout the body. There should be no areas of increased or decreased distribution. "Hot
spots" are areas where there is an increased accumulation of the radioactive
material. "Cold spots" are areas that have taken up less of the radioactive
If you are pregnant or nursing, the test may be postponed to prevent exposing
the fetus to radiation.
The amount of radioactivity in the injection is very small, and virtually all
activity is gone from the body within 2-3 days. Although it is extremely rare with
bone scanning agents, a person may develop rash, swelling, or anaphylaxis (severe
There is a slight risk of infection or bleeding with any intravenous injection.
Some abnormalities that may be identified on radionuclide bone scans include:
- Tumors that have spread from other parts of the body to the bone (metastatic disease)
- Primary bone tumors
- Bone infections (osteomyelitis)
- Degenerative diseases of the bones, such as arthritis
- Fibrous dysplasia
- Paget's disease
- Avascular necrosis
- Radiation changes
It is important to understand that bone scan findings must be correlated with
other imaging studies, in addition to clinical information. You should always discuss
the significance of abnormal findings with your health care provider.
Review Date: 8/22/2006
Reviewed By: Jonathan Gross, M.D., Department of Radiology, Columbia University Medical
Center, New York, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
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