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What is a bone scan?

A bone scan is a nuclear medicine test that involves injecting a small amount of a radioactive tracer into an arm vein. The tracer makes it possible to see the bone structures in your body clearly on film.

Once you receive the tracer, you will be asked to return in three to four hours to have a series of images taken of your bones. The delay allows the tracer to attach to your bones so the images can be taken. During the delay, you are allowed to leave the department to continue with your daily activities.

Drinking an extra 24 to 32 ounces of water enhances the images; it is also highly recommended that you empty your bladder at least two times before returning for the second set of images.

The second set of images will take about one hour to complete. Once the images are complete, the nuclear medicine doctor will review them and order any additional close-ups as necessary. If close-ups or additional images are needed, do not be alarmed. This is part of a routine bone scan. Between the times the second set of images is taken and the time the nuclear medicine doctor studies the images will be about one hour.

You should plan on scheduling approximately six hours for this exam.


Preparation for a bone scan includes:

  • No tests that use barium for at least 48 hours before your scheduled bone scan
  • You may eat your normal diet
  • You may take your normal medications 7
  • Remember to bring a list of your current medications to the bone scan
  • Remember to bring the written order (prescription), for this test, given to you by your doctor

If you are receiving dialysis, you should schedule your bone scan on a day you receive dialysis. You will receive the radioactive tracer and the first set of images will be taken before you receive dialysis. The second scan will be completed after dialysis.

If you have x-ray, CT scan or MRI films or reports from tests not performed by Beaumont Hospitals or one of its satellites, please bring them with you the day of your bone scan.


  • Patients of childbearing age should review the pregnancy and breastfeeding guidelines.