What Is the Purpose of a Bone Scan?


Quick Answer

The purpose of a bone scan is to help diagnose problems with the bones, specifically problems with bone metabolism. It can indicate damage to the bones, locate cancer that has spread to the bones from other parts of the body, and monitor problems such as infection and trauma, notes Healthline.

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Full Answer

A bone scan is a procedure that is conducted by a technician who injects a radioactive dye, called a tracer, in the arm of the patient. As the bone’s cells naturally gravitate to areas that are damaged and need repair, the radioactive tracers in the dye circulate throughout the body, follow these cells and converge on the locations in the bone that are damaged. When enough time has passed for the dye to adhere to the bone, the technician scans the bone using a special camera to capture images of the affected areas, which appear as dark spots, explains Healthline. In addition to detecting potential cancer, bone scans help to diagnose the cause of unexplained bone pain, determine the location of abnormalities in complex bone structures, such as the foot or spine, and diagnose broken bones that are not clearly seen on X-rays, such as hip or stress fractures, notes WebMD.

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