If your doctor recommends a bone scan, what does it mean? A bone scan is a detailed, noninvasive imaging test that allows doctors to observe the inside of your bones in order to diagnose illnesses and track their progression.
There are two main types of bone exams. A three-phase bone scan is a nuclear imaging test that shows how the bones process an injected agent. A DEXA bone scan is a type of X-ray that tests bone strength and density to diagnose osteoporosis.
No preparation is necessary for either of these scans. Let’s look at these two types of scans in further detail:
Three-Phase Bone Scan (Nuclear Imaging)
A three-phase bone scan allows doctors to observe changes in the way your bones process an injected tracer over a period of time. The tracer is made of radioactive material that is harmless to your body. The tracer emits less radiation than a CT scan.
The doctor uses a special camera to take images of your bones right after the injection, and again several hours later. This shows details in your bone structure that can reveal a number of medical conditions.
Phase 1 – Injection
The radioactive tracer is injected into a vein, where the tracer will be absorbed into your bones.
Phase 2 – Initial Imaging
The technician will (painlessly) capture images immediately after the injection is given. The images will record the locations and the amounts of the tracer substance in your body.
Phase 3 – Detailed Scan
After a predetermined time (usually several hours), you will go back and undergo a detailed scan. This can take approximately an hour.
What a Three-Phase Bone Scan Shows
The three-phase bone scan reveals how and where the tracer moves through the bones. A radiologist will read the results of your bone scan and send them to your doctor.
This scan can show a tiny fracture that doesn’t appear on X-rays. It can also reveal whether there is an infection, a tumor, or cancer in the bone.
Any concentration of the tracer material, or the absence of it, will show where there may be a problem. Additional tests may be required.
DEXA Bone Density Scan (X-ray)
A DEXA scan is used to measure the strength of your bones. DEXA is a detailed type of X-ray that uses two frequencies to measure the density of bone mass.
What to Expect in a DEXA Bone Scan
DEXA scans are usually completed in less than 10 minutes. There is no pain involved in the test, which takes place as you lie down on a table.
What a DEXA Test Shows
Your DEXA bone scan results will provide an indication to your doctor of your bone health. Sometimes it is possible to diagnose osteoporosis with one scan, or your doctor may compare the results of scans after a year or more to determine the rate of bone loss.
Depending on your age and lifestyle, your doctor may recommend treatments to increase bone mass or stop further bone loss.
Imaging Center in Palm Beach County
Patients in Palm Beach County trust the comfort, ease, and expertise of Independent Imaging. We have four convenient locations that are open six days a week.
If you have any questions about your bone scan or what to expect, our friendly staff is always happy to help. Call us today at (561) 795-5558 or fill out our online appointment request form to make your appointment. We look forward to serving you and providing outstanding service.