First Time User? Sign Up Now
First Time User? Enroll now.
Home > Fitness & Health > Health Library > Bone scan
A bone scan is a test that identifies new areas of bone growth or breakdown. It can be done to evaluate damage to the bones, detect cancer that has spread (metastasized) to the bones, and monitor conditions that can affect the bones (including infection and trauma).
During a bone scan, a small amount of radioactive substance (radionuclide) is injected into the bloodstream. A camera takes pictures of the location of the radioactive substance in the bone. Areas that absorb little or no amount of tracer appear as dark or "cold" spots. This could show a lack of blood supply to the bone or certain types of cancer. Areas of abnormal bone collect a lot of the radioactive substance and show up as "hot" spots on the picture. Hot spots may mean problems such as arthritis, a tumor, a fracture, or an infection. A bone scan can often detect a problem days to months earlier than a regular X-ray test.
Current as of: September 23, 2020
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Anne C. Poinier MD - Internal Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine & Myo Min Han MD - Nuclear Medicine
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2021 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.
Feeling under the weather?
Use our interactive symptom checker to evaluate your symptoms and determine appropriate action or treatment.
Our interactive Decision Points guide you through making key health decisions by combining medical information with your personal information.
You'll find Decision Points to help you answer questions about:
Get started learning more about your health!
Our Interactive Tools can help you make smart decisions for a healthier life. You'll find personal calculators and tools for health and fitness, lifestyle checkups, and pregnancy.