About Your Bone Scan

This information explains what to expect during your bone scan.

Your doctor has requested that you have a bone scan. This procedure is usually done to see if cancer has spread to the bones. It can also be done to check the effects of treatment or to check for infection in the bone, arthritis, or signs of old fractures.

The procedure takes about 5 hours. It is done in 2 parts, with a waiting period in the middle.

During the first part of the procedure, you will be injected with a substance called a radioisotope. It contains a small amount of a radioactive material. This material will not harm you and you will not need to limit your contact with other people. Over the next 2 to 3 hours, the radiation will accumulate in your bones.

In the second part of the procedure, a special camera called a gamma camera will be used to take pictures of your body. While the scan itself is painless, you will need to lie on the scan table for 30 to 45 minutes. If you are unable to lie flat for this long or think you will have pain, please talk with the Nuclear Medicine staff at the beginning of your appointment.

You do not need to do anything to prepare for your procedure.

The Day of Your Procedure

Where to go

Enter the hospital at 1250 First Avenue between East 67th and East 68th Streets. Turn left and walk up 1 flight of stairs to room S-200.

If you are an inpatient, an escort team member will take you to the Nuclear Medicine department.

What to expect

Radioisotope injection

A Nuclear Medicine doctor or nurse will review your medical history with you and inject the radioisotope into a vein.

Waiting period after the injection

You will have around 3 hours of waiting time in between your injection and your scan.

  • If you are not an inpatient, you can do whatever you wish during the waiting period. You can eat and drink, have other tests, or even leave the hospital.
  • If you are an inpatient, you will be taken back to your room where you can do whatever you wish during the waiting period.
  • Drink extra liquids after the radioisotope injection. Drink at least 2 (12-ounce) glasses of liquids. This will make it easier to empty your bladder before returning for the scan. Your bladder must be empty so that it will not cover your bones in that area.
  • If you think you will have pain while lying on the table during the scan, take your usual pain medication 1 hour before the scan.

Bone scan

  • About 3 hours after the injection, you will return to Nuclear Medicine for the bone scan. If you are an outpatient, tell the receptionist that you have come back for the second part of the bone scan procedure. You will need to empty your bladder at this time.
  • A Nuclear Medicine technologist will help you on the scanner table. You will lie flat on your back for 30 to 45 minutes. Please tell your technologist if you have pain in a specific area.
  • The gamma camera will move slowly over your body from head to toe. It will be close to you, but it will not touch you. There will be some noise when the technologist positions the scanner, but you will not feel anything.
  • Sometimes, additional views are recorded at the end of the scan for more detail on specific parts of the body. Do not be concerned if you need these. They give your doctor more information when reading the scan.
  • After the scan is finished, you will be asked to return to the waiting area until your scan is processed. Your technologist will tell you when you can leave.
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After Your Procedure

You can go back to your normal activities as soon as your procedure is finished. Drink plenty of water and urinate frequently to get the radioactive material out of your body.

Any radioactive material will be gone from your body within 24 hours after your procedure. There are no precautions that you need to follow. You can be near anyone, including children.

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