F-18 Bone Scan

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Overview

A F-18 NaF bone scan is a nuclear imaging test that helps diagnose and track several types of bone disease. Your doctor may order a bone scan if you have unexplained skeletal pain, a bone infection or a bone injury that can't be seen on a standard X-ray.

A bone scan can also be an important tool for detecting cancer that has spread (metastasized) to the bone from the tumor's original location, such as the breast or prostate.

Why it's done

If you have unexplained bone pain, a bone scan might help determine the cause. The test is very sensitive to any difference in bone metabolism. The ability to scan the entire skeleton makes a bone scan very helpful in diagnosing a wide range of bone disorders, including:

  • Fractures
  • Arthritis
  • Paget's disease of bone
  • Cancer originating in bone
  • Cancer that has metastasized to bone from a different site
  • Infection of the joints, joint replacements or bones (osteomyelitis)
  • Impaired blood supply to bones or death of bone tissue (avascular necrosis)

Preparation

You don't need to restrict your diet or avoid particular activities in preparation for a bone scan.

Procedure

The procedure begins with an injection of F-18 NaF isotope in your vein. The isotope is then allowed to work its way through your body for the next hour. You may be asked to lay down or come back for the scan after an hour.

After an hour the scan begins, it might take up to 30-40 minuets.

As the isotope spreads through your body, the bone’s cells naturally gravitate to areas that need repair. The isotope’s radioactive tracers follow these cells and collect in spots where bone is damaged. It’s taken up in regions that have a high blood flow.

 The damaged areas where the isotope has settled appear as dark spots on the image.