A bone scan is a relatively safe procedure of imaging that is used for detecting and identifying any abnormalities or diseases that may afflict the bones. This diagnostic test is often used when treating patients afflicted with an aggressive cancer that could spread to the bones. It is also used for diagnosis when standard procedures of diagnosis like x-rays can not detect injury to the bones or also in case of bone loss and bone infections. Bone scan tests belong to the category of nuclear medicine and are conducted at a radiology department in most hospitals or outpatient centers.
The bone scan procedure involves the introduction of a radioactive tracer into the bloodstream through an injection administered into a vein. As the tracer travels through your body it does give out a small amount of radiation that is picked up by the imaging camera. While the amount of radiation from this procedure is negligible and under normal circumstances causes no side effects it could pose a risk to a developing baby. Pregnant women are therefore not advised to take this test, and it is not recommended for breastfeeding mothers either. In general any tests that involve exposure to radiation are best avoided during pregnancy, which is why a bone scan will be postponed if you are pregnant.
In the case of breastfeeding mothers you would be advised to breastfeed before the injection containing the radioactive tracer is administered. After the test you are advised to discard any milk and avoid breast feeding for the next 2 days. Milk produced during this period must be discarded and a breast pump can be used to do the same.
Under normal circumstances the procedure for a bone scan poses almost no risk and would only cause some mild discomfort. You would possibly experience some mild sting or prick at the site of the injection. In very rare cases there may be bleeding at the site of the injection or the area could get infected. This however is extremely rare. The procedure itself is simple but you could get restless and find it hard to stay still; which is why it is best to make yourself comfortable by requesting a pillow or blanket.
The only serious risk from the bone scan procedure under normal circumstances would be the possibility of the patient developing an allergic reaction to the radioactive isotope which is injected into the vein. This could cause a rash to break out and possible swelling or even anaphylactic shock, but this is exceedingly rare.More articles from the Medical Tests Category