Nuclear Medicine – Bone Scan

On Monday I had to go to nuclear medicine for an isotope bone scan which I was referred to from my rheumatologist to get some further information on how my joints are doing with regards to my hypermobility. We had done knee and hip x-rays which didn’t show any damage which is a good thing as he told me once something shows on an x-ray with regards to your bones at least it is either irreparable or it will take a long time to heal. So the next step was to scan my skeleton; part of me felt apprehensive as I wasn’t really sure what to expect so here is a short post on what goes down and hopefully will alleviate anyone else’s anxiety. Nuclear medicine is a department that uses low levels of radiation to scan your bones, heart, kidneys, lungs (I have had my lungs done before) brain and thyroid gland. 

I wasn’t given any special instructions like don’t eat or drink/ drink xyz before whatever time so that wasn’t a worry; however the letter stated that I would need an injection at 10:30am and my scan would be at 13:30pm. I didn’t need to stay in the department during the time between, however I had taken a packed lunch, my knitting and a book. Prior to my injection I was asked if I was pregnant which I replied with I am sterilised and she asked if I was breastfeeding which I am not. I had my injection into a vein through a thin tube which didn’t take too long and only the what I’m presuming was a flush was mildly uncomfortable for a second or two – but remember I had been in hospital the week before. The wait in between the injection and the scan is so the low radiation can sink into the bone which will then be picked up via the scanner. The radiologist said that if I was leaving the department just to return for 1pm.

I am currently knitting a patchwork blanket for my niece for Christmas so I worked on a few squares of that whilst I waited and then went for a walk for a change of scenery to eat my lunch. 1pm soon rolled around and I was asked to empty my bladder – now on the NHS page about bone scans it says how I should have drank 1.5L of fluids in between but I didn’t as I wasn’t asked. It also says that I shouldn’t sit with young children for 30 minutes and up for 24hrs which again I wasn’t told but my kids don’t sit for that long so ultimately that wasn’t an issue.

I was asked to remove my necklace but my rings and even my boots with metal buckles could stay on. I laid down on the “bed” and the lady Dionne I believe put some like wooden rests on an angle slightly under both of my arms which made having my arms down by my sides so much more comfortable. The scanner was just a large flat square that “hovered” above you, there was a little TV that told you time elapsed and time remaining. She told me it would come in close and by gosh she was right, it isn’t as imposing as a MRI scan and even less than a CT scan but it wasn’t entirely fun either, boring if anything but at least you could hear the radio! The scan took 20 minutes from my head to my feet and you moved very slowly from under the scanner square, it was almost like an escalator with a slight judder not uncomfortable or unpleasant.

I was really disappointed that when my head was out and I could see the screen that I couldn’t see my skeleton or any bone definition, it was just a bunch of white fuzz like back in the day when your TV lost signal or it timed out and you got white noise. I did say to the radiologists that I was a bit gutted about that and they explained it needed processing first then it would be sent to my consultant and when I see him he could show me the images. That was fair enough I suppose. Once the scan was complete I was free to go home and in reality I didn’t need to feel anxious about it at all and now I am intrigued to see what the results hold for my painful joints.

Have you had a bone scan before? If so what was it like for you?

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