Radionuclide Bone Scan

A bone scan identifies changes or problem areas in the bones of your body. The bone scan is a reliable and painless test in which images of all the bones in your body are taken by using a small amount of radioactive material and special scanning equipment. The bone scan is often done as part of a check-up to be sure that the bones are free of cancer and to determine the effects of cancer treatment.

The total amount of radiation that you are exposed to during the bone scan is very low.

A medication that contains a small amount of radioactive material is injected into a vein in your arm. After about 2 to 3 hours, the bone cells have collected the medication from the circulating blood.

Radiation rays from the medication make an image on photographic film. A nuclear medicine doctor studies this picture and notes any changes or problem areas in the bones. A report is then sent to your physician.

The Day of Your Scan

  • A nuclear medicine technologist will inject the medication into a vein, usually in your arm. You may feel a brief sting in your arm when the IV is inserted.
  • You will be asked to return to the Nuclear Medicine Clinic 2 to 3 hours later.
  • To ensure accurate results, please return on time.
  • If for some unavoidable reason you cannot keep your appointment, please notify the Nuclear Medicine Clinic at (716) 845-3231.
  • When you return for the bone scan, dress in clothing that has no metal accessories that could interfere with the picture.
  • Empty your bladder before your scan begins.
  • You will be helped onto the scanning machine, which consists of a firm bed with a camera above it.  A Nuclear Medicine technologist will help position you and adjust the camera.
  • As you lie on your back, the scanner will be positioned over you and will then move over the entire length of your body. This will be done over the top to make an anterior picture and once from below to make a posterior picture.
  • Additional views may be required for accurate interpretation by the physician studying the pictures.
  • The bone scan will take about 1 hour. During the bone scan, try to relax, breathe normally and lie very still. Too much movement will cause a poor quality picture that is difficult to interpret.

After the Scan

There are no side effects from the bone scan. You can resume normal activities. The radioactive material presents no immediate danger to you or to the people around you, and no special precautions are needed.

Within six hours after the injection, more than ½ of the radioactivity is either expended or eliminated from your body. After 48 hours, the radioactivity is completely gone.