Bone Scan

Also known as: nuclear bone scan, bone densiometry, skeletal scintigraphy.

What is a bone scan?

Children with genetic disorders, chronic diseases, poor nutrition, those who are immobile for a variety of reasons, have other illnesses, undergo some treatments and others, may not acquire the expected amount or bone strength, making bone fractures more likely. The measurement of bone density (densitometry) is a valuable part of assessing those children's health status. A bone scan (DXA or radiographic absorptiometry) is one of a number of methods (and the preferred one) to assess a child’s bone density.

DXA is a bone scan imaging test that uses a very low dose a radioactive substance (technetium-99m MDP) to evaluate all of your child’s bones. It’s different from a normal bone X-ray in that it shows bone cell activity. It is often used to assess bone pain, bone fractures or infection, tumors of bone and other bone problems.


What happens during the procedure?

The bone scan begins with an injection into an arm vein of a tiny amount of radioactive material. These tracers typically travel to areas of the body’s bones that are repairing themselves or have very active cells. The patient will typically need to wait a few hours (when he/she can eat, drink and/or play) after the injection. The patient will need to drink a lot of water during this time as he/she will asked to empty his/her bladder before the scan is performed. He/she will then lie on an examination table while a special type of camera takes pictures of his/her body.


Is any special preparation needed?

In most cases, no special preparation is needed for the test, other than removal of jewelry.


What are the risk factors?

There are few to no risk factors related to a bone scan. Only a very small amount of radiation exposure occurs during the test, and complications associated with the intravenous injection (pain, bleeding, infection) are uncommon.


Reviewed by: Jack Wolfsdorf, MD, FAAP

This page was last updated on: 9/12/2018 11:44:53 AM

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