Bone scintigraphy: how it is performed

Bone scintigraphy is a diagnostic technique that allows the graphic representation of the distribution of a radioactive substance, previously injected, in an organ or tissue of the body (the substance is called a tracer)

The scintigraph transforms the emitted radiation into graphic signals

The tracers are injected by intravenous injection (these are phosphate compounds labelled with Tc99m or Iodine-131) and are picked up by the bone matrix in proportion to blood flow and district mineral turnover (e.g. there is a physiological hyperconcentration of tracer at the level of the spine because mineral turnover is higher there).

Bone scintigraphy, when it is performed

The major use of bone scintigraphy is in the search for bone metastases, 50% of which can be detected in the absence of signs on direct radiographic examination.

How to prepare for bone scintigraphy

No preparation is required, you can therefore have breakfast.

However, it is necessary to maintain a high level of hydration throughout the morning, so it seems advisable to have a supply of water.

The time required for the investigation is about 3-4 hours; when the polyphasic method is used, the first two phases immediately follow the administration of the radiopharmaceutical while the late images are acquired after at least 3 hours, after the total-body scan.

It is a good idea to arm yourself with patience and bring something to read.

How bone scintigraphy is performed

The investigation is usually performed by total-body method with a double-headed gammacamera, i.e. with two longitudinal scans of the entire skeleton in a single pass; if necessary, targeted scintigrams are acquired in appropriate projections.

The duration of the total body acquisition is approximately 12 to 15 minutes; that of the individual segments varies between 5 and 15 minutes.

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