Bone scan factsheet

Introduction

A bone scan checks for signs of healing, damage and blood supply in the bone.

This type of scan can be used to check different health conditions like:

  • unexplained back or bone pain
  • arthritis – swelling and tenderness in the joints
  • slipped femoral heads – when the ball of the hip bone slips in or slightly out of the socket
  • fractures and trauma – breaks or injury to a bone
  • tumours – unusual growth of cells in the bone
  • bone cysts – unusual, painful growths filled with liquid.

In the bone scan, a small amount of radiotracer is injected into your child's vein. The radiotracer collects in areas of the bone where there are breaks or differences and helps them show up on the scan.

Before the test

There are no special preparations for a bone scan.

Allergic reactions to radiotracers are very rare and almost always mild. Let your child's treatment team know if they have any allergies.

Scans can be uncomfortable for children. You can support your child by:

  • staying with them during the procedure unless you are pregnant
  • using simple words to explain how the scan works and what it is looking for
  • bringing along their favourite comfort objects, like a blanket or toy.

Before the scan, your child will need to have an intravenous (IV) cannula placed to deliver the radiotracer. An IV cannula is a thin tube inserted into a vein in the arm or leg. 

The IV cannula is inserted with a needle, which can be uncomfortable for children. Let your child’s treatment team know if they need any support or numbing cream for the needle.

Talk to your child's doctor if you have questions or concerns about the bone scan.

During the test

The bone scan happens in 2 parts.

Part 1

The first part of the bone scan takes around 20 minutes. 

  1. your child lies down on the scanning bed and may be wrapped in a blanket with Velcro straps to help them keep still
  2. the radiotracer substance is injected into your child's vein through the IV cannula
  3. the scan starts as the radiotracer is injected. 

After the first scan, your child can leave for up to two hours while the radiotracer moves into their bones. The nuclear medicine scientist will give you a return time. During this rest period, your child can eat, drink, and play.

Part 2

In the second part of the scan:

  1. your child will need to empty their bladder
    • children who are toilet trained will be asked to go to the toilet to do a wee
    • children wearing nappies will need to be checked to see when they do a wee
  2. your child must lie on the scanning bed while the second set of images is taken. 

The second half of the scan can take 45 to 60 minutes. During this time, children can watch TV or listen to music.

Some children may also need a low-dose CT scan after the bone scan.

After the test

You may leave after the images are taken and reviewed by a doctor or nuclear medicine scientist. 

The results may take some time, and your child's doctor will contact you when they are available.

Last updated Tuesday 19th March 2024

Disclaimer

This factsheet is provided for general information only. It does not constitute health advice and should not be used to diagnose or treat any health condition.

Please consult with your doctor or other health professional to make sure this information is right for you and/or your child.

The Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network does not accept responsibility for inaccuracies or omissions, the interpretation of the information, or for success or appropriateness of any treatment described in the factsheet.

© Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network 2024


This factsheet was produced with support from John Hunter Children's Hospital.