Bone scan and bone density and JIA

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A bone scan and a bone density test are two types of tests you may need for JIA diagnosis. Learn what you can expect during each of these tests.

Key points

  • A bone scan is usually done to show inflammation or infection.
  • A bone density scan measures the amount of calcium in the bones to determine how strong the bones are.
  • Both scans involve the use of special X-ray equipment.

A bone scan will show inflammation or infection in the bones, while a bone density test will measure the amount of calcium in the bones. You may undergo these tests as part of JIA diagnosis.

What is a bone scan?

A bone scan is a series of pictures of your skeleton. Usually your entire body is scanned. The scan is done to show inflammation or infection in the bone that might not show up on a regular X-ray.

How is a bone scan done?

A bone scan is done by a doctor called a radiologist, who specializes in imaging studies. The radiologist is assisted by a nuclear medicine technologist.

An intravenous (IV) tube will first be placed in your vein. Through the IV, you will be given a dose of a radioactive medicine which will travel to your bones (skeleton). This medicine is very safe. It will take two to three hours for your bones to absorb the medicine. If you drink lots of liquid, it will help your bones absorb the medicine.

After about two to four hours, you will be asked to lie on an X-ray table. This is where the bone scan will be performed. A “gamma” camera will be placed very close to your body. This camera will record the gamma rays given off by the radioactive medication as flashes of light.

The gamma camera will capture an image or movie of your skeleton or bones in action. Very simply, it will create a living picture of your skeleton.

Once the scan starts, it will take one to two hours. If you have a hard time lying still, you may be given an anaesthetic, which will make you feel sleepy and will help you keep still.

What is a bone density test?

The bone density test helps to measure the amount of calcium in your bones. It can help your doctor predict how strong your bones are. It also helps your doctor predict your risk of developing a fracture.

How is a bone density test done?

The most common method of doing a bone density test is by using low-dose X-rays. You will be asked to lie down on a table. The bone density scanner will pass over your body. Usually the machine will take X-rays of your lower spine and hips. The test is painless, but you will need to stay still during the test. The test usually takes 10 to 15 minutes.

Last updated: January 31st 2017