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Bone scan is a special test used for getting insight into the health of one’s bones. This test encompasses all bones in the body and is excellent for tracking the advancement of bone cancer or noticing bone damage. This test is different than the standard X-ray test since bone scan involves exposure to radiation and the insertion of intravenous markers. Also, bone scan is not the same as bone density test since the two procedures are done for different purposes.

The Purpose of Bone Scan

As it was mentioned above, this scan is used to access the spread of metastatic bone cancer. Since this cancer spreads from one bone in our body to all the others, doctors need to keep track of this progression and react timely.

Bone scan helps doctors see abnormal bone structures or bone deterioration. Moreover, the exact age of any fractures can be perceived through this scan. Also, if the patient is in pain, the bone scan can pinpoint the exact location which is triggering this unpleasant sensation. Once the bone scan procedure is done, CT or MRI scans are usually used in order to provide the medical staff with more precise data. While X-ray scans are useless in diagnosing broken hip bones and similar injuries, bone scans give out more than precise data on the subject, being irreplaceable. Additionally, it can provide insight regarding inflammations or infections, as well as other forms of cancer, spreading throughout the body.

The Procedure

Bone scan can be used on a specific body part or on a patient’s body as a whole. Firstly, a radioactive tracer element is injected in the veins of the patient. This is done in the arm area. Once inside the body, the radioactive tracer element goes through the bloodstream and into the bones. Since this effect takes place after several hours, the patient needs to wait that long before he/she can be placed into the scanner.

Basically, the scanner is made of a gamma camera which records the activity in the bones, capturing the location of the tracer element, since this substance emits radioactive gamma rays. Once the camera picks up these rays, it transfers the information gathered into a computer which subsequently produces an image. Darker spots in the image tell us that tumors, arthritis, fractures or infections are in the area. Also, if the spots are lighter than the rest of the body, this is a sign of low circulation, lack of blood supply, cancer or abnormal bone growth.

After the test, the patient’s body ejects the radioactive elements through urine. Thus, all patients undergoing this procedure are advised to drink plenty of water afterwards.

The price of a bone test is about $600, depending on the location, facility, number of scanned bones and some other factors.

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