First Time User? Enroll now.
COVID-19: Vaccine information, visitor restrictions, and additional resources | Medicaid: The program is changing and you must take steps to keep your UNC Health providers
Home > Health Library > Bone scan
A bone scan is a test that identifies new areas of bone growth or breakdown. It can be done to evaluate damage to the bones, detect cancer that has spread (metastasized) to the bones, and monitor conditions that can affect the bones (including infection and trauma).
During a bone scan, a small amount of radioactive substance (radionuclide) is injected into the bloodstream. A camera takes pictures of the location of the radioactive substance in the bone. Areas that absorb little or no amount of tracer appear as dark or "cold" spots. This could show a lack of blood supply to the bone or certain types of cancer. Areas of abnormal bone collect a lot of the radioactive substance and show up as "hot" spots on the picture. Hot spots may mean problems such as arthritis, a tumor, a fracture, or an infection. A bone scan can often detect a problem days to months earlier than a regular X-ray test.
Current as of: June 17, 2021
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Anne C. Poinier MD - Internal Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine & Myo Min Han MD - Nuclear Medicine
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2021 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.
2615 Lake Drive
Raleigh, NC 27607
901 Ridgefield Drive
Raleigh, NC 27609
934 Vandora Springs Road
Garner, NC 27529
1505 SW Cary Parkway
Cary, NC 27511
501 Health Park Drive
Garner, NC 27529