Medical Imaging

Nuclear Medicine > Exams & Procedures > Bone Scan

This scan tests the level of activity of your bones. This test may have been ordered by your doctor to investigate several different possible disease processes:

  • To determine if a fracture or broken bone is present.
  • To investigate the cause of unexplained bone or back pain.
  • To evaluate the significance of things seen on plain X-rays.
  • To detect or follow incidence of cancer that spreads to the bones.
  • To determine the cause of joint prosthesis pain.
  • To establish the viability of bone grafts.
  • To diagnose metabolic bone disease (e.g. Paget's disease); incidence of avascular necrosis (decreased blood supply to the bones); or incidence of reflex-sympathetic dystrophy (decrease nerve supply to blood vessels that supply bones).

Preparation

  • You should drink about one liter, or eight cups of water, during the first three hours following the injection of the tracer and use the washroom as you need to.
  • Bring a list of all medications and supplements you take. This includes vitamins, herbal remedies, and holistic medications.
  • Do not bring children or pregnant women with you to the department. We do not want to expose them to unnecessary radiation.
  • Any of these procedures is subject to change according to the nuclear medicine physician. The duration of the tests is a rough estimate. Please be aware that the time may be lengthened if a scan has to be repeated, if emergency cases are brought to the department or due to unforeseen circumstances.

About the Procedure

The bone scan procedure differs depending on what your doctor specifically wants to look at. All procedures involve the injection of a radioactive phosphate tracer into one of your veins. Over time the tracer is picked up by your bones proportional to the level of bone activity present.

This procedure takes about four hours with a two to three hour break.

Whole Body Bone Scan
  • A technologist will briefly explain the test to you and try to answer any questions you may have about the procedure.
  • A technologist will ask you a few questions about your medical history and medications.
  • The technologist will give you an injection of a radioactive tracer into a vein.
  • You will be given a break for two to three hours to allow the bones enough time to pick up the tracer.
  • During the break you will be asked to drink at least one and a half litres or six cups of fluids and use the washroom frequently. This gives us clearer pictures and washes out any tracer not picked up by the bones.
  • After the break you will return for additional pictures. Pictures may take anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes depending on what your doctor has requested.
Three Phase Bone Scan
  • A technologist will briefly explain the test to you and try to answer any questions you may have about the procedure.
  • A technologist will ask you a few questions about your medical history and medications.
  • You will be asked to lie down on a bed.
  • A camera will be positioned at the area of concern.
  • The technologist will give you an injection of a radioactive tracer into a vein.
  • Phase one: Pictures will be taken as the tracer is injected.
  • Phase two: Pictures will be taken around the area of interest for about 15 minutes.
  • You will be given a break for two to three hours to allow the bones enough time to pick up the tracer.
  • During the break you will be asked to drink at least one and a half litres or six cups of fluids and use the washroom frequently. This gives us clearer pictures and washes out any tracer not picked up by the bones.
  • Phase three: After the break you will return for additional pictures. Pictures may take anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes depending on what your doctor has requested.
Bone Tomogram
  • Three-dimensional bone pictures that are acquired after either a whole body bone scan or a three phase bone scan.
  • The bone tomogram involves having the cameras rotate around the area of interest, taking pictures as they move.
  • These pictures take 30 minutes to complete and it is very important that you do not move during these pictures as movement causes blurring of the pictures and results in having to take the pictures again.