Health Library
Bone Scan

What is a Bone Scan?

A bone scan is a test used to find problems in the bones or joints. Special pictures are taken after a medicine is injected into a vein.

The pictures show the medicine in the bones.

Before the Bone Scan

Before coming to the hospital, read this explanation and explain to your child what will happen during the test. For young children, use simple words and explain only shortly before the test.

Children 4 years and under may require sedation or general anesthesia for their procedure. You will be given certain eating and drinking restrictions necessary to complete the exam. The day of the exam, a parent or guardian needs to be present to sign informed consent for sedation.

If sedation is necessary, a nurse or doctor will explain it to you.

If your child is an infant, it is helpful to bring along a bottle of formula or juice for after the test. It is also recommended that you bring a pacifier, blanket or special toy to help calm your baby.

For older children, it is helpful to bring a book or toy to play with while waiting. It is helpful to have another caregiver for your child's siblings. For young children or babies, it is a good idea to bring a stroller.

During the Bone Scan

A technologist will place a small needle called an IV into a vein in your child's hand or foot. The needle hurts for just a moment. When the needle is in, the medicine is injected into a vein. For certain conditions, the child will lie on a soft table and one or two pictures will be taken immediately.

After these pictures, there is a 90-minute wait before more pictures are taken. You may wait in the waiting area or go for a walk.

Children 4 years and older who are NOT being sedated are not restricted from eating and are encouraged to drink fluids. Give him / her water, juices, fruit punch or soft drinks.

After 90 minutes, you and your child will return to the nuclear medicine area and the test will continue. Your child will need to lie still on a soft table while a special camera is used to take pictures from above and below the child.

If sedation medicine is necessary, a nurse or doctor will explain it to you. It will take at least one hour and sometimes two hours to take all of the pictures. During this time, the camera will not hurt or touch your child. You will be able to stay with your child during the entire test. (If your child requires general anesthesia you will not be able to stay in the room during the procedure.)

It is possible that during the procedure your child may experience some discomfort. Please tell the doctor, nurse or technologist if pain occurs.

After the Bone Scan

The child eliminates the medicine from his / her body by urinating. Your child should drink plenty of fluids and urinate often to help clear it from his / her body. It should be completely out of your child's body within 24 hours.

As always, you and your child should wash your hands after the child urinates or when handling urine-soaked diapers or sheets.

After the test, your child may return to regular daily activities and meals. If your child had sedation medicine, he will be monitored by a nurse in the recovery room until he wakes.

This amount of time is often unpredictable depending on the amount of sedation medicine given. It is common for children to sleep two hours after the medicine is given.

A nurse will give you special instructions. Results of the test will be available to your child's doctor within 24 hours.

Last Updated 03/2022

Reviewed By Joby MacLean