A bone scan, also known as a skeletal scintigraphy, is a highly sensitive two-part nuclear imaging and diagnostic test. It can help identify and track the severity of bone-related problems including cancers, arthritis, infections, fractures, and unexplained bone pain.
How a Bone Scan Works
The first part of a bone scan is the intravenous injection of a radioactive substance (called a tracer or radionuclide) that can be absorbed by bones and emits a type of radiation called gamma radiation. The second part of the test involves a special scanner that can detect gamma radiation and produce pictures of the bones. The tracer collects in areas of abnormal chemical or physical change, often referred to as hot spots.If a problem in the bone is difficult to see or must be seen in better detail, a SPECT (single photon emission computed tomography) scan may be requested in addition to the regular bone scan. SPECT also uses a gamma camera, but the camera takes numerous images while rotating around the body area being studied. The images are then turned into cross-section views by the computer to show more details.