What Is a Joint Scan?

By Ashley | March 11, 2010

A joint scan is performed to examine joint pain. Joint scans help detect and diagnose cause for joint aches and/or arthritis. Joint scans are also nuclear tests, which require injecting a contrast material into the blood stream to obtain comprehensive images.

Reasons Why a Joint Scan is Performed

Your doctor will order a joint scan to examine the reason for unexplained joint pains. Another reason to do a joint scan is to check for joint damage or injury. This scan is also conducted when arthritis is suspected and also to monitor the status of an arthritic patient.


There aren’t any dietary or fluid restrictions before this test because bone joint scans are not affected with food or fluid consumption. Also, you can continue taking prescribed medications before the scan, as these too will not affect the outcome of the test. It is recommended that you drink plenty of fluids though and ensure you empty your bladder between the time you are injected with the tracer and the time your bone joint/joints are scanned.


As mentioned above, a bone joint scan is conducted to examine joint pain as well as arthritis. In this imaging procedure, you will be asked to lie flat on your back. An IV will then be inserted into a vein in your arm and you will receive an injection of Technetium-99 (a commonly used isotope in nuclear medicine scans). Technetium is administered along with MDP, a pharmaceutical agent, which gets concentrated in bone areas that are inflamed or injured.

Once technetium MDP is injected, a scan will be taken after twenty minutes and another scan after a couple of hours. It takes roughly 30 minutes to capture satisfactory high quality images in each scanning. There is no possibility of developing complications or allergies from this test, unless you are specifically allergic to technetium; in which case, this scan cannot be administered on you.

With multiple scanning processes, not to mention preparation for each test, a joint scan in its entirety takes over 3 hours. It’s best to take a book with you as there will be plenty of waiting involved. Results of a joint scan can be made available in 48 hours. Images of the scan are reviewed by doctors at the end of day, and they prepare their report within two days. If there is an abnormaility in the report, you can then consult your physician on treatment options.