A Bone Scan evaluates your bones to assist in the diagnosis to determine the condition of your skeleton


SWSI Scoliosis Quiz

What is a Bone Scan?

A bone scan will show trouble spots on the spine by injecting a radioactive chemical into the bloodstream.  Once inside the body, the chemical attaches itself to areas of the skeleton that generate new bone.  In addition, several hours after the injection, pictures will be taken of the skeleton.

Why Conduct a Bone Scan?

A bone scan will identify problems in the skeleton. Furthermore, it offers the ability to take a picture of the entire skeleton and pinpoint any problem areas. Meanwhile, concentrations of the chemical appear as dark spots on the film. In an adult, this usually indicates a problem. Also, the increased bone-making activity indicates a response to the problem. For example, when a fracture of the bone occurs, bone cells will very quickly begin to make new bone to try to repair it. Once these areas are located on the bone scan, the doctor may order additional tests for specific information about your condition.

In other words, a bone scan can show problems such as bone tumors, infection, and fractures of the spine. On the other hand, it can also determine bone density and the bone-thinning condition of osteoporosis.

Illustration of bones in spine

Medical Clearance

How is it done?

An intravenous line (IV) is inserted in your hand or arm. Then the chemical tracer infusion takes place by going into the bloodstream through the IV.  A waiting period of two to three hours takes place, while the chemical attaches itself to any areas of bone that are undergoing rapid changes. Usually, patients can leave and come back after this period.

Patients will then lie or sit underneath a large “camera” that takes pictures of their skeleton. Since the chemical tracer is radioactive, it sends out radiation that a special camera can identify. Moreover, the camera is similar to a “Geiger counter” in that it uses film to capture the radioactivity and the procedure takes 30-90 minutes.

What are the limitations?

The bone scan does not show details of the bones or soft tissue. It simply shows how much the bone around a specific area reacts to the problem.

What are the risks?

There is always the risk of an allergic reaction to anything injected into the bloodstream. In this case, an allergic reaction to the chemical does not usually occur. The radioactive chemical rapidly disappears within hours from the body.

If you or a loved one suffers from spinal pain, you owe it to yourself to call Southwest Scoliosis and Spine Institute at 214-556-0555 to make an appointment.