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What you need to know for your Bone Scan

Posted by Jessica Curran on Apr 2, 2019 11:11:00 AM

Are you scheduled for a bone scan and find yourself wondering what is a bone scan and how does it differ from an x-ray? Don’t worry, Houston Medical Imaging, our Radiologists, and staff are here to help you through this exam and answer any questions you may have.

Let’s start with the basics.

A bone scan is a test that uses a radioactive substance (or tracer) to examine your skeletal system. An exam can include your entire body, or a certain area, in detail. The radiation you are exposed to from the injected radioactive substance is about the same as a regular x-ray. A bone scan is performed to detect abnormalities in the skeletal system, such as injuries, tumors and infection. Bone scans can pick up these abnormalities in early stages when x-ray findings may still be completely normal.

The main difference between an x-ray and a bone scan is that an x-ray is typically the first step in the diagnostic process and is used to examine anatomical structures (your bones). A bone scan goes a step further to detect areas of increased or decreased bone metabolism. The injected tracer gives off radiation as the material wears away and the images taken during the scan will show how much radioactive substance collects in the bone. It detects injury or whether the healing process has occurred. An x-ray cannot show a stress fracture, however, a bone scan will.

It's important to note that additional studies like a CT or MRI may be needed to characterize or differentiate a tumor, infection, or fracture. Your Radiologist and Physician will determine if more studies are needed.

Now we need to get you ready for your appointment.


  • When you arrive at the Imaging center, you will be asked to fill out some paperwork and sign a consent form for the exam.
  • Please be sure to bring the signed order from your physician requesting the examination as well as your insurance card.


  • Please inform the technologist if you are pregnant, think you could be pregnant, or are breast feeding.

Your Bone Scan:

  • First, you will have the radioactive substance (or tracer) injected into a vein in your arm. You will not feel any effects from the injection. If the scan is a three-phase bone scan, you will be imaged at the time of injection and between 2-3 hours after the injection.
  • The actual bone scan is done between 2 to 3 hours after the injection. Once you receive your injection, you may leave the clinic and eat normally unless you are fasting for another test.
  • You will be asked to drink extra fluids and pass your urine as often as you can during the three-hour waiting time.

Bone Scan HMIFor more information on the procedure or how to prepare. Please call our office at: 713-589-5231

You can visit our website at www.hmixray.com or our blog.