Bone Scan (Scintigram)

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What is a scan?

This is a test in which a small amount of radioactivity is used to obtain pictures. The pictures will help your doctor to understand your illness. This particular scan makes pictures of how your bones are functioning and is more sensitive than X-rays for diagnosing many diseases involving bones or joints. It is used as a screening test in conditions which can affect the skeleton and may also be requested to determine the cause of pain in the bones when X-rays do not show it up.

Is the radiation dangerous?

No. The amount of radiation you receive is small. It is similar to that from an X-ray examination.

What is involved?

The radioactivity is usually injected into a vein in your arm. You then have to wait 3 - 4 hours before pictures are taken depending on the type of scan being done. The pictures will be taken with a 'Gamma Camera' and you may sit on a chair or lie down on a bed.  You will also be asked to drink at least two pints of fluid during the morning and empty your bladder frequently. (This improves the quality of the scan). Do not wear clothes with metal buttons. It is not normally necessary to undress but You will not be asked to remove other metal objects (buckles, coins, medallions etc) before scanning.

What should I tell the staff before the scan?

If you are a woman please tell us before you have the scan injection if you are pregnant or think you are pregnant. Also please tell us if you are breastfeeding. You will then either be given a new appointment or advice will be sought from your doctor. You should avoid close contact with babies or small children for the rest of the day following the isotope injection.

Do I need to prepare for the scan?

Your appointment letter will give you any special instructions. For most scans, you can eat and drink as usual.

If I am taking tablets or other drugs, do I need to stop?

For most tests there is no need to change regular treatment. If you do need to stop taking a drug, your appointment letter will tell you.

Will it hurt?

Only the pinprick of the injection will hurt a little - it will feel similar to having a blood test done. It is highly unusual to feel any ill-effects from the injection. It does not make you sleepy or prevent you from driving a car.

Can I bring a friend / relative with me?

We would welcome this as long as they are not young children. Between the injection and scan you are free to go home or go into town. If you use hospital transport, we can arrange for you to wait on a ward.

What happens after the scan?

You may go home or return to work. You may be asked to have extra drinks for the rest of the day to help 'wash' the radioactivity out of your body.


Further general information Your doctors and specialist nurses are in an ideal position to give you relevant information on your disease and treatment as they know your individual circumstances. Cancerbackup has a help line (0808 800 1234) and a prize winning video available in English, Italian, Urdu, Bengali, Gujarati & Hindi explaining Radiotherapy & Chemotherapy. has over 500 pages describing cancer, its management, practical tips and tool which patients, their carers and their doctors have found helpful during the cancer journey.

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