A nuclear medicine bone scan shows the effects of injury or disease (such as cancer) or infection on the bones. A nuclear medicine bone scan also shows whether there has been any improvement or deterioration in a bone abnormality after treatment.

A radioactive material (radiopharmaceutical) is injected into a vein, attaches to the bones and is detected by a special camera (gamma camera) that takes images or pictures that show how the bones are working. Bone scans image both the structure and the active cell growth of the bones, so are often used in conjunction with other imaging e.g. X-rays, computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

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If you’ve never had a Nuclear Bone Scan you might not know what to expect and this brief guide is designed to answer the questions that might be in your mind.

  • It’s important that you tell us before the scan if you:
  • are (or might be) pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • recently had a test that used barium.
  • taken an over-the-counter medication containing bismuth (such as Pepto-Bismol).
  • Drink extra fluids and empty your bladder often between the injection and scan.
  • You may need to stop taking certain stomach and narcotic medications 2 days before the study.
  • You will also need to have a temporary IV set up.
  • Please confirm your appointment by phone 24 hours before your scan and arrive in plenty of time.
  • You’re welcome to bring a friend or a relative with you, but for safety reasons, we don't normally allow them into the examination room.
  • Don’t forget to bring your appointment letter with you.
  • Once you have checked in at reception, a member of the radiography team will meet you, explain the procedure, go through your safety questionnaire with you and ask you to sign a consent form.
  • You will have the opportunity to ask any questions.
  • We might ask you to change into an examination gown.
  • You will receive an injection of a small amount of radiopharmaceutical into a vein and then images are taken with the gamma camera.
  • Throughout the procedure, you will be looked after by the radiography team. They will explain what’s happening and will be there if you experience any discomfort.
  • The examination should take up to 5 hours.
  • The technologist operating the equipment will be able to see and hear you throughout the procedure.
  • Your technician will position you on a table, with the camera positioned above and below you imaging the entire length of your body taking 15 minutes.
  • For safety reasons, we won’t normally allow anyone accompanying you to come into the examination room whilst you are having your procedure.
  • It is extremely important that you remain as still as possible for best results.
  • There are no restrictions on normal activity, you can eat and drink normally, drive and return to work immediately after the scan.
  • The small amount of radioactive tracer will lose its reactivity or pass through your urine.
  • Drink plenty of water to help flush it out of your system.
  • A radiologist will examine the images shortly after your visit and send a report to your doctor or consultant, normally within a few days.
  • For ethical and professional reasons, we cannot discuss results with you. Only your doctor or consultant can do this