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Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

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NOC Radiology: isotope bone scan

What is a bone scan?

A bone scan is a method of looking at your bones to show conditions not seen using X-rays. It requires an injection of a small amount of radioactive fluid, which is then taken up by the bones. This scan is performed three hours after the injection.

Do I need to prepare for the scan?

No special preparation is required. You may eat and drink as normal before and after the scan, but you will be asked to drink 1.5 litres of fluid between the injection and the scan (you do not have to drink water and may wish to bring something with you).

There is no need to stop taking any tablets that you may have been prescribed.

Is there anything I should tell the Radiographer before the scan?

  • Ladies: please tell us before the injection if there is any possibility of you being pregnant, or if you are breastfeeding.
  • Gentlemen: please inform the radiographer if you have prostatic problems and drinking recommendations will be modified.

What does the procedure involve?

You will be given an injection into a vein in your arm. There is a 3-hour wait following this, to allow for the substance to be absorbed into the bones. You are free to leave the hospital during this time if you wish.

Please drink approximately 1.5 litres of fluid between the injection and your scan, and empty your bladder often. Please inform the Radiographer if your fluid intake is restricted for any reason.

Your scan will be performed with you sitting, standing or lying down. The camera will be brought close to various parts of your body and images taken. This will take approximately 45 minutes.

You are not required to undress, but we suggest you wear comfortable, loose fitting clothing. You will be asked to remove metal objects such as coins, rings, pendants and belts.

Are there any side effects?

There are no ill-effects from the injection. It will not affect your ability to drive afterwards.

Is the radiation dangerous?

The dose received from the injection is similar to 2 years background radiation and is not considered dangerous. However you should avoid prolonged contact with small children and pregnant women for 24 hours following the injection. (close contact means having a child sitting next to you or on your knee for more than 30 minutes). This avoids exposing them to unnecessary radiation.

What happens after the scan?

Once the scan is finished, the films will be checked and occasionally X-rays taken to help interpret the bone scan.

Next steps

Please allow two weeks for the results. If your doctor sent you for this examination, you should go back to your surgery for the results. If a doctor from the hospital sent you, you may already have been offered an appointment to be given the results of this examination.

Patients referred from the Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre

All films are returned to the Radiology Department at the Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre for reporting. Please allow two weeks for the results to be sent to your doctor.

Other points

If you are unable to attend your appointment, please inform the department:

  • Tel: 01865 225957

We will arrange another appointment for you as soon as possible.

The waiting area for patients is unsuitable for children. If possible please do not bring children with you.


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