Pediatric Bone Scan

Pediatric Bone Scan

What is a bone scan?

A Bone Scan is a series of pictures of the skeleton. Usually the entire body is scanned.

Why was a bone scan ordered?

The pictures of the bones made during a bone scan show areas of bone growth, bone breaks, tumor and infection which may not show up on regular x-ray.

Who will perform the bone scan?

A radiologist assisted by a nuclear medicine technologist will perform the scan. A radiologist is a nuclear medicine doctor who has advanced medical training in chemistry and physics and expertise in nuclear medicine tests and treatments.

The nuclear medicine radiologist will interpret the results of the scan and inform your child’s doctor of the results. The radiologist may find the child’s bones to be healthy and without any problem. However, the radiologist may find a problem, which needs treatment. The Bone Scan results will help your child’s doctor select the best treatment for any problem. The results of the scan will then be available for you from your child’s doctor.

Where will the scan be done?

The scan is done in the Radiology Department in University Hospital East on the main floor. You may park in the garage across the street from the hospital. Parking is free. Bring your parking ticket into the hospital with you. Your ticket must be validated to quality for free parking.

How does the scan work?

Prior to the scan a small plastic needle called an IV is placed in the vein. Through this IV your child will be given a dose of a radioactive medicine compound, which travels to the bones (skeleton). It takes 2 –3 hours for the bones to absorb the medicine compound. Drinking lots of liquids such as water or soda helps the bones to absorb the medicine compound. The medicine gives off invisible rays, called gamma rays, as it travels throughout the bones. Two to 4 hours after the injection, your child will lie on a special x-ray table to have the Bone Scan performed. A special gamma camera placed very close to the body records the gamma rays as flashes of light. The end pictures are an image or movie that shows the skeleton or bones in action. Very simply it creates a living picture of the skeleton.

How long does the scan take?

After the radioactive medicine compound is injected into the IV, there is a wait of 2-4 hours. The child should drink several glasses of water and go to the bathroom, during this time period. Once the scan starts it takes 1-2 hours.

Is the radioactive medicine compound dangerous?

The answer is NO. Your child will receive only a tiny amount of radiation that is equal to approximately as much radiation as 3 chest x-rays.  Also, the radiation compound will lose most of its radioactivity in hours or days.

What must be done to get ready for the scan?

If your child is old enough to understand, discuss the scan with him/her. Tell the child to "lie very still" for a lperiod of time for the pictures. Reassure him/her that the scan does not hurt and that you will be able to remain in the room while the pictures are taken. Bring along favorite books or videos for entertainment.

There are no food or liquid restrictions prior to the scan unless the child has other tests scheduled that require an empty stomach. Regular medication may also be taken.

Children less than 4 years of age will have trouble holding still for the scan. Usually these children require "sedation" medicine. This is not the same as "gas" or general anesthesia.  The sedation is a liquid medicine administered by a radiology registered nurse. While the child is sleeping and throughout the procedure, the nurse will monitor heart rate and oxygen level.

If your child requires sedation:

  • Arrive in radiology 1 hour prior to your appointment time.
  • DO NOT give your child less than 6 months of age any milk or formula 3 hours prior to arrival.
  • DO NOT give children 6 months to 6 years any milk or food 4 hours prior to arrival at the hospital.
  • DO NOT give children older than 6 years any milk or food 6 hours prior to arrival at the hospital.
  • All age children may have clear liquids (Jell-O, Popsicle’s, Apple Juice, Pedialyte, and Gator Aide) up to 2 Hours prior to arrival at the hospital.
  • All age children must have NOTHING BY MOUTH FOR THE LAST 2 HOURS prior to arrival at the hospital.
  • Wake your child up early and keep him/her awake. A sleepy child is easier to sedate than a child who has had a long nap.
  • It is good to bring a 2nd adult along with you to help care for the child following the procedure. If sedation is given, the child will be sleepy on the way home.
  • Leave other children with a sitter. Space is limited and a quiet environment is needed for sedation.

What happens after the test?

If the child received sedation, he/she will be monitored until responsive, then discharged. If no sedation is given, the child will be discharged immediately after the scan.


For any questions or concerns

Contact the Radiology and Medical Imaging department at 434-924-9400.