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What is a total body nuclear bone scan?

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A total body bone scan is a nuclear imaging test that helps detect bone damage and disease like cancer, says WebMD. The bone condition is detected when the radioactive tracers collect in the bone and emit gamma wave radiation; this procedure is more efficient than an X-ray.

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The tracer is introduced by injection into a vein in the arm, says Premier Radiology. It travels into the bloodstream and into the bones. After two to four hours, the patient is scanned using a gamma camera to record the pattern of radioactive tracer absorption. Dark or "cold" areas with little tracer are typical to certain cancer cells, while bright or "hot" areas of fast bone growth that absorbs more tracer can indicate infection, arthritis, fracture or a tumor, notes WebMD.

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