Nuclear Medicine Bone Scan

What is a Bone Scan?

A nuclear medicine bone scan is a study done that can identify abnormalities or injury to your bones by providing a functional image.  That means the image shows how the cells are performing-normally or abnormally, and to what degree.

How is the examination performed?

A registered and certified Nuclear Medicine Technologist will perform your examination and can answer any questions you may have.  This exam is performed by injecting a short lasting radiotracer into a vein.  A radiotracer is a compound made of a radioactive isotope and a pharmaceutical agent.  In the radiotracer used for a bone scan, the pharmaceutical part acts like calcium in your body-it is attracted to your bones.  The bones absorb the radiotracer the way they absorb calcium. The radioactive isotope releases energy and a special camera creates an image from it.  The image shows any area where too much or too little of the radiotracer has been absorbed, indicating your results.

Who is a candidate for a Bone Scan?

A bone scan can sometimes be ordered to detect arthritis, infection (cellulitis or osteomyelitis), tumors, fractures that are difficult to see on a standard x-ray, and evidence of prior trauma such as an old sports injury.  A bone scan can also be used to evaluate unexplained bone pain, and malignancies of breast, pancreas, and prostate cancers.

Will I need to prepare for the exam?

No, radiotracers are not known to cause any side effects or adverse interactions with food or prescription drugs.  You should continue taking any prescribed medications.  If x-rays or other images of the region of interest have been taken elsewhere, you should bring copies of those films with you as they may be helpful to the Nuclear Medicine Physician to make a diagnosis.  If you think you might be pregnant, you should talk to your doctor about it before having a nuclear medicine examination.

What will I experience?

A registered and certified Nuclear Medicine Technologist will inject the appropriate dose of radiotracer.  If your doctor has ordered the exam because you might have an infection or a particular type of fracture, images may be taken during the injection.  For most studies, however, you will have your images 3-4 hours after the injection.  While you wait for imaging to occur, you will be asked to drink at least four 8-oz. servings of any beverage.  Also try to urinate frequently to help eliminate any excess tracer from your body.  For imaging you will lie on your back on a bed positioned between a set of cameras.  Once you are comfortable, the imaging will begin.

The bed will slide from head to toe as the cameras move over you, following the contours of your body.  They will come quite close to you.  The imaging typically lasts 30-45 minutes.

What happens next?

After the scan is complete, you will be able to resume normal daily activities.  Your images will be analyzed by the Technologist and the nuclear medicine computer and sent to the Radiologist’s computer for interpretation.

Your images will be interpreted by a State of New Mexico licensed and board certified Physician, Radiologist, that specializes in radiology interpretation.  A report will be dictated, transcribed, and faxed to the Physician that ordered your test.  Your Physician will receive the report within 24 hours and is responsible for notifying  you of the results.

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