Bone scintigraphy: indications and examination procedure

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Bone scintigraphy: indications and examination procedure

What is a bone scintigraphy?

A bone scan is a medical imaging test. " In medical imaging, there are two main areas: radiology (MRI, scanner ...) and nuclear medicine (to which the scintigraphy belongs) explains Dr. Thomas Mognetti, a nuclear medicine specialist at the Léon Bérard Center.

Specifically, a bone scan is used to visualize only the skeleton of the patient. " The patient is injected with a special product, very slightly radioactive, which has an affinity with the bone tissue: thanks to this "beacon", we will be able to see the bones only, without the muscles, tendons, etc. "says the specialist.

Is it dangerous? Absolutely not. " There is nothing to fear. Bone scintigraphy has no absolute contraindications (only a relative contra-indication in case of susceptibility to pregnancy), there is no risk of allergy, the tolerance is total. And there are no side effects to dread. "

Bone scintigraphy: what indications?

Prescribed by the general practitioner, by the oncologist or by the specialist (rheumatologist, orthopedist ...), the bone scintigraphy allows to visualize the state of the bone tissue. There are three main indications:

  • In case of rheumatological or orthopedic pathology (for example: osteoarthritis, arthritis ...), bone scintigraphy allows the diagnosis of certain fractures difficult to detect by radiography. This medical imaging examination also allows the diagnosis of certain bone infections - osteomyelitis, spondylitis ...
  • In case of cancer (and in particular in cases of prostate cancer or, more rarely, in case of breast cancer), bone scintigraphy is indicated for the search for metastases.
  • " When a general practitioner or specialist suspects a pathology, he may prescribe a bone scan to exclude cancer or fracture diagnoses explains Dr. Mognetti.

To know : Bone scintigraphy is a medical imaging examination that is 100% supported by the Health Insurance.

How is a bone scan done?

To know : Bone scintigraphy is most often performed in hospitals (public or private), in the nuclear medicine department. You must present yourself with your identity card and your prescription.

  • The examination begins with an interview to explain to the patient how the bone scan will take place and to take stock of his medical history - " the nuclear medicine specialist must know exactly what to look for explains Dr. Mognetti.
  • A few milliliters of a clear liquid (similar to water) are injected intravenously into the patient: it is the tracer that will make it possible to visualize the skeleton. " It is not more painful than blood test "adds the specialist.
  • The patient must wait between 2 hours and 4 hours, the time that the tracer is fixed and accumulates on the bone tissue. " He can take the opportunity to eat or other: he does not have to stay in the waiting room! "
  • The patient is lying on his back on an examination table and a machine moves around him: it is she who will take the shots. " Just stay still, says Dr. Mognetti. You do not have to undress: you just have to remove all the metal elements from the outfit - jewels (especially if they are gold), belts, accessories ... "
  • The exam lasts about 20 minutes: it is sometimes necessary to redo a series of images to obtain additional information.
  • The bone scan ends with an interview with the nuclear medicine specialist who will analyze the first results and return the images taken to the patient.

One last tip? " The exam takes place on a half-day, says the specialist. There is a lot of waiting: you have to plan something for several hours. "

Thanks to Dr. Thomas Mognetti, a specialist in nuclear medicine at center Léon Bérard (Lyon).

Read also :

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⋙ Osteoporosis: a drug suspected to increase ... fractures!

⋙ Magnesium to fight fractures

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