Bone Scan

What is a bone scan?

A bone scan is a test that lets us evaluate your child’s entire skeleton. It helps us diagnose causes of bone pain due to trauma, exercise or other reasons.

We do the test by giving your child an intravenous radiopharmaceutical. This "tracer" is medicine combined with a small amount of radioactive material. It travels to the area of your child we need to see and is detected and imaged by a gamma camera.

Radiopharmaceuticals are carefully tested. The risk of side effects is extremely small. Most radiopharmaceuticals used in nuclear medicine studies give less radiation exposure than a day at the beach.

What should you do prior to the exam?

  • Your child should not receive radiographic contrast agents 24 hours prior to the bone scan.
  • If your child requires sedation you will receive additional instructions to follow.
  • Dress your child comfortably, in clothes that are easily removed. Your child may be given a gown to change into for the procedure.
  • We have a large variety of video entertainment to choose from, however, your child can also bring along a favorite movie to watch during the exam.
  • You may want to bring a snack or drink for your child to have after the exam.

Note: Parents will be allowed to accompany the child into the exam room. It may be helpful to make other arrangements for siblings.

What should you expect during the exam?

  • A technologist or nurse will place an IV in your child’s arm, hand or foot. Your child may feel a small pinch.
  • The technologist will ask why the bone scan is being done and will explain the study to you and your child. The technologist will inject the tracer through the IV line.
  • Sometimes we will take images while we inject the tracer. If so, your child will lie still on the exam table for about 15 minutes while these images are taken. Afterward, your child may take a break.
  • If images during injection are not required, your child will be given a two- to four-hour break immediately after the tracer is injected. During the break, you and your child may leave the Nuclear Medicine department. The technologist will tell you what time to return for the delayed imaging portion of the test.
  • It is important to keep your child hydrated during the break. Your child can drink water or juice. The technologist will give you instructions before you leave the department.
  • When you return, your child will lie on his back on the exam table, beneath the gamma camera. The table will move slowly under the camera during the exam. Your child will have to lie still on the exam table during the imaging portion of the test for approximately 30 minutes to over one hour, depending on your child’s history and diagnosis.
  • After viewing the initial images, the nuclear medicine physician may want to take more.
  • A bone SPECT is sometimes required with the bone scan.
  • Young patients and those who are unable to hold still may be sedated for the delayed imaging portion of the test. You may be given different instructions to follow during the break time if your child is being sedated.

If you’d like, our child life specialists will help you prepare and support your child during the procedure. We can also arrange to have a child life specialist at your child's appointment to explain the procedure in developmentally appropriate ways and to help your child better cope with the stress of the hospital experience.

What should you do after the exam?

There are no special instructions for your child to follow after the procedure.

Test Results

The images from your child's exam are interpreted on the same day and a report is sent to your physician's office.

Your physician may call 215-590-2584 with questions about the exam.