Diagnosis

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Bone Scan

There are a variety of diagnostic exams your doctor may recommend to determine the cause of your back and/or neck pain, as well as the type of treatment that may be appropriate for you.

Bone Scan MachineWHAT IS A BONE SCAN?

A bone scan involves intravenously injecting a small quantity of a radiographic marker, into the patient and then running a scanner over the area of concern. The scanner detects the marker, which concentrates in any region exhibiting high bone turnover.

WHY DO I NEED A BONE SCAN?

Your doctor will typically recommend a bone scan when there is suspicion of tumor, arthritis, infection, necrosis or small fractures, i.e., conditions that all result in high bone turnover. A bone scan does not replace diagnostic tests such as an MRI, CAT/CT scan or x-ray imaging, but may provide additional information.

HOW IS A BONE SCAN DONE?

During the exam, your doctor will first give you an injection of the radiographic marker, which contains tiny amounts of radioactive materials called tracers, into a vein in your arm. After two to four hours – the amount of time it takes for the tracers to be absorbed into your bone – you’ll be ready for the actual scan. For the scan, you’ll lie on an exam table while a gamma camera is passed over your body to record the pattern of tracer absorption by your bones. The test may be done in a hospital or outpatient facility, is painless and typically takes about 30 minutes. In some instances, your doctor may order a three-phase bone scan, which involves taking a series of images over a period of time, usually two to four hours.

ARE THERE ANY POTENTIAL RISKS OR COMPLICATIONS?

The risk associated with a bone scan is similar to that of conventional x-ray imaging. There are generally no side effects, and an allergic reaction to the radiographic marker is rare. After the test, you can resume your normal activities.

Blue Distinction Center for Spine Surgery