Bone scan

A bone scan is a nuclear imaging test that helps diagnose and track several types of bone disease. Your doctor may order a bone scan if you have unexplained skeletal pain, bone infection or a bone injury that can't be seen on a standard X-ray.

A bone scan is also an important tool for detecting cancer that has spread (metastasized) to the bone from the tumor's original location, such as the breast or prostate.

Why it's done Risks How you prepare What you can expect Results

If you have unexplained bone pain, a bone scan might help determine the cause. The test is very sensitive to variation in bone metabolism. The ability to scan the entire skeleton makes a bone scan very helpful in diagnosing a wide range of bone disorders, including:

  • Fractures
  • Arthritis
  • Paget's disease of bone
  • Cancer originating in bone
  • Cancer that has metastasized to bone from a different site
  • Infection of the joints, joint replacements or bones (osteomyelitis)
  • Fibrous dysplasia
  • Impaired blood supply to bones or death of bone tissue (avascular necrosis)

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