Information for Consumers - Bone Scan

This article tells you about a bone scan, the benefits and the risks, what happens before, during and after having a bone scan.

What is a bone scan?

A bone scan uses a gamma camera and a computer to take pictures of your bones.

Firstly, you will be given an injection of a radioactive liquid into a vein in your arm, which will circulate through your body and help show problem areas in your bones.

A bone scan may be used to show bone tumours, infection and fractures in your bones.

An image showing a patient in a bone scanner

Benefits of a bone scan

  • Can show problems in your bones days to months earlier than a normal x-ray
  • Generally painless

Risks of bone scan

Your doctor knows the risks of having a bone scan. Your doctor will consider the risks before recommending you to have a boane scan. Possible risks are:

  • Not recommended for pregnant women
  • Very small chance you could develop cancer in the long term from the radiation
  • If you are breastfeeding, you may be required to stop for a period of time


  • Bring your referral letter or request form and all x-rays taken in the last 2 years with you
  • Leave the x-rays with the nuclear medicine staff, as the doctor may need to look at them. These will be returned to you before you leave or you will be told when these are ready to be picked up
  • Leave all jewellery and valuables at home

Just before the bone scan

  • You may be given a gown to wear
  • You may be asked to remove any metal objects

Important to tell your doctor before the bone scan

  • If you are or may be pregnant
  • If you are breastfeeding

What happens during a bone scan?

There are two parts to a Bone Scan and a waiting period between:

  • First part - 20 to 30 minutes including time taken to get ready. This will include injection of the radioactive liquid and may include having some pictures taken straight after the injection
  • 3 - 6 hours waiting time before
  • Second part - 30 to 60 minutes including time taken to get ready

Total 4 - 7 hours altogether

Injection of radioactive liquid

Nuclear medicine staff will inject a small amount of radioactive liquid into a vein in your arm

Bone scan (s)

You will be asked to lie on a bed or sit underneath the gamma camera. The staff will set up the camera and leave the room while the pictures are taken. They can see, hear and speak to you at all times. You will be able to speak to them at all times. They will tell you what is happening and when to hold still.

The gamma camera may pass over your body while it is taking the pictures.

During the waiting time you will need to drink lots of fluid and may go to the toilet as many times as you like. You may eat anything you like and take medications as required.


You have the right to refuse an examination and may do so if you wish. You may be asked to fill in a consent form.

When will I get the results?

The amount of time it takes for you to get your results will differ depending on where you get your scans done. The nuclear medicine doctor will look at the pictures and write a report. The pictures may be on films or on a CD.

Ask whether you should wait to take the pictures and report with you, or whether they will be sent to your doctor.

Your doctor will need to discuss the report with you. You will need to make an appointment to do this.

After the bone scan

You will be able to go soon after the bone scan has finished and can continue with normal activities.

  • Staff will need to take out the needle if it is still in your arm
  • Staff will give you any special instructions
  • The radioactive liquid will pass out of your body in your urine within 2 days. You will not notice it as it is colourless
  • Drink plenty of fluid to help get rid of the radioactive liquid


For an Australian patient in a Public Hospital in Western Australia

  • Public patient - no cost to you unless advised otherwise
  • Private patient - costs can be claimed through Medicare and your health insurance provider

For a patient in a Private Hospital or Private Imaging Site in Western Australia or a patient outside Western Australia

  • Ask your doctor or the staff where you are having your test done what the cost will be

Further information

For more detailed information please access bone scan from InsideRadiology at:

This is a resource produced especially for consumers by the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Radiologists:

A guide to gathering information that you may need for making informed decisions is published by the Consumers' Health Council of Australia at:

If you would look at another relevant article, please access the following: Radiation risks of x-rays and scans

Or for other relevant information access the Diagnostic Imaging Pathways website at:

Or if you have questions or require any further information please contact your doctor or speak to the staff where you are going to have your procedure.

Consumer participation

This information has been reviewed by representatives from the following groups:

  • Aboriginal people
  • People with disabilities
  • Seniors
  • CALD (Culturally and Linguistically Diverse)
  • The Health Consumers' Council


All feedback, comments and suggestions regarding consumer information at Diagnostic Imaging Pathways are welcome. Please click on Contact Us


This article is intended as general information only. The Diagnostic Imaging Pathways team and Radiology Across Borders will not accept any liability arising from its use. The information is kept as up-to-date and accurate as possible. Please be warned that it is always subject to change.


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Date reviewed: July 2017

Date of next review: July 2019