Nuclear bone scan

During a bone scan, a radioactive tracer substance is used to identify areas where new bone is growing, and areas where bone has broken down. This exam is done to evaluate damage to the bones, find cancer that has spread to the bones, and monitor conditions that can affect the bones, including infection and trauma.

How does it work?

Several hours before the exam, a radiotracer substance will be injected into a vein in your arm. The substance will work its way through the bloodstream and into the bones.

During the exam, pictures will be taken using a gamma camera, a specialized camera that can observe low doses of radiation.

Areas where little radioactive tracer has been absorbed will appear dark on the image; these are called "cold spots" and indicate areas where there may be a lack of blood flow or cancer. Areas where more radioactive tracer has been absorbed are called "hot spots." These indicate areas of rapid growth or repair, and they may indicate problems such as arthritis, the presence of a tumor, a fracture, or an infection.

Learn more about what to expect during your nuclear medicine exam.