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Bone Scan

A bone scan is a nuclear imaging test used to do the following:

  • Diagnose bone conditions — most often, cancerous bone tumors and cancer that has spread to the bone (metastasized) from other parts of the body
  • Determine how much cancer is in the bones before and after treatment (known as “staging”) to see whether the treatment is working

For the test, a very small amount of a radioactive material (radionuclide) is injected into the patient’s bloodstream. This material gradually wears off but leaves behind small amounts of radiation that can be seen using a special scanner. Any area where the radionuclide remains, called a “hot spot,” may indicate a problem with the bone.

The scan is painless, and there are no side effects from the injection or the radionuclide.

Do I need a bone scan?

A doctor at Rush may recommend a bone scan for the following reasons:

  • To diagnose a cancerous or noncancerous bone tumor
  • To see if cancer has spread (metastasized) to the bones from another part of the body
  • To diagnose fractures that don’t show up on an X-ray
  • To see whether a bone is infected (osteomyelitis)
  • To figure out what is causing bone pain if other tests can’t pinpoint the cause
  • To detect other conditions, such as the following:
  • To follow the progress of treatment to see whether the treatment is working

Why choose Rush for a bone scan

  • Orthopedic specialists at Rush treat virtually all conditions affecting the bones, including infections, fractures and arthritis. Their expertise is a big reason why the orthopedics program at Rush is consistently ranked among the best in the nation by U.S. News & World Report.
  • If a bone scan reveals primary or metastatic bone cancer, doctors at Rush can help. These specialists are among the most experienced in the region at treating these rare cancers. In fact, the number of patients Rush sees for bone cancer and soft tissue sarcoma is among the highest in Illinois.