Bone Scan

Otherwise known as skeletal scintigraphy, bone scans can be used to detect and monitor health abnormalities, such as bone scan for cancer and bone scan for osteoporosis.

One of the most common indications of a bone scan, also known as skeletal scintigraphy, is to determine the status of the bones in cases of cancer. Bone scans are also useful for detecting abnormalities in the skeletal system, such as bone infection, fractures due to strenous exercises, Paget's disease, benign bone tumour like osteoid osteoma, tumours and even in cases of child abuse. Bone scans may also be used to evaluate unexplained bone pain, arthritis and osteoporosis.


You will be instructed to remove all your belongings, especially metallic objects. You will have to change into a gown if parts of your clothing have metallic components. You will be asked to lie down on the imaging couch. It is very important that you keep very still throughout the whole procedure as the images can be blurred if there is movement. Images of your bones will be taken by a gamma camera and the whole procedure will take about 40 minutes.

Variations of Scanning Procedure

Early blood pool images: sometimes the nuclear medicine physician may need to take pictures of your bones as the tracer is moving through your bloodstream before it reaches your bones. The injection will then be given while the gamma camera is placed over the area of interest and images will be recorded as the tracer travels to the bones. The normal bone scan will also be performed at least 2.5 hours later.

For children, the procedure is the same as for adults, except that before the scan, the child may be given a sedative as any movement is detrimental to the quality of the scan. After the procedure, the child should be able to resume normal activity, and there are no restrictions to eating, drinking or contact with others. If the child has been sedated, you may wish to let him or her rest for a day before resuming active play activity.

Patient Preparation

There is no need to fast.

For most bone scans, the appointment will be in the morning. You will be given an injection containing a very small amount of radioactive tracer and the scanning will only begin at least 2.5 hours later. This waiting period is to allow the tracer to be absorbed by the bones — be prepared to spend at least half the day or more. After the injection, you will be given a specific time to come back for the scan.

There are no side effects and no restriction of diet.

You will be asked to drink as much fluid as possible after the injection and you should urinate as frequently as possible. This helps to eliminate the tracer that is not taken up by your bones from your body. A full bladder will also obscure the bones in the pelvic region.

Back to Top