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Posted: September 18th, 2023

Powerpoint describing the pathology and how bone scanning is used to help diagnose

Powerpoint describing the pathology and how bone scanning is used to help diagnose. Should include typical findings on a bone scan. Very important to relate it to bone scans

Bone scanning, also known as skeletal scintigraphy, is a type of nuclear imaging that uses small amounts of radioactive tracers to visualize bone structures and detect abnormalities throughout the skeletal system. Since its introduction in the 1970s, bone scanning has become an invaluable tool for orthopedists and oncologists in evaluating bone diseases and injuries (Mawlawi et al., 2005). By utilizing the tracer’s affinity for areas of increased bone metabolism, scans can identify fractures, tumors, infections and other pathological processes within bone that may not be apparent on standard radiography. In this article, I will discuss the technical aspects and clinical applications of bone scanning, including typical scan findings for various bone conditions.
Technical Overview
Bone scans utilize radioactive isotopes that are selectively absorbed by bone tissue undergoing active modeling or remodeling (Mawlawi et al., 2005). The most common radiotracer used is technetium-99m (Tc-99m) methylene diphosphonate (MDP), which is injected intravenously and absorbed by the bone mineral hydroxyapatite within 30 minutes (Mawlawi et al., 2005). Areas of increased osteoblastic activity will demonstrate heightened radiotracer uptake, appearing as “hot spots” on the scan (Mawlawi et al., 2005). Whole body planar imaging is then performed approximately 3 hours after injection, allowing time for clearance of unbound tracer from soft tissues (Mawlawi et al., 2005). Single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) imaging may also be used to provide three-dimensional localization of abnormal tracer accumulation (Mawlawi et al., 2005).
Clinical Applications
One of the most common uses of bone scanning is in the detection and management of bone metastases from primary cancers like breast, lung and prostate tumors (Even-Sapir et al., 2006). Due to bone’s rich blood supply, it is a frequent site of metastatic spread, which disrupts normal bone remodeling and appears as multiple bright foci on scans (Even-Sapir et al., 2006). Scans are more sensitive than plain films for identifying metastatic bone disease and can detect lesions before they cause lytic or blastic changes visible on x-ray (Even-Sapir et al., 2006).
Bone scans are also valuable for evaluating suspected bone infections or inflammatory conditions. Osteomyelitis causes localized radiotracer uptake at the site of infection (Even-Sapir et al., 2006). Other inflammatory arthropathies like rheumatoid arthritis demonstrate a “photopenic” or “cold” pattern as the joints lose bone mineral density (Even-Sapir et al., 2006). Scans may help differentiate septic from aseptic spondylitis based on the degree and pattern of vertebral uptake (Even-Sapir et al., 2006).
In trauma settings, bone scans can identify fractures not seen on initial radiographs, especially those involving the ribs, pelvis or vertebrae (Even-Sapir et al., 2006). They are also useful for monitoring fracture healing over time (Even-Sapir et al., 2006). In patients with prosthetic joints, increased uptake may indicate loosening or infection requiring further workup (Even-Sapir et al., 2006). Scans play an important role in evaluating bone tumors, both benign and malignant, helping to detect primary or recurrent lesions (Even-Sapir et al., 2006).
Typical Scan Findings
Some common bone scan appearances include (Mawlawi et al., 2005; Even-Sapir et al., 2006):
Metastatic disease appears as multiple focal areas of increased radiotracer uptake, often symmetrically distributed. The ribs, vertebrae, pelvis and proximal long bones are frequently involved sites.
Osteomyelitis presents as a single photopenic lesion with peripheral tracer accumulation representing surrounding bone formation.
Fractures demonstrate a photopenic defect surrounded by increased uptake at the fracture margins.
Arthritic joints show decreased or absent uptake in the joint space with surrounding photopenia.
Bone tumors, whether benign or malignant, are detected as focal areas of increased or decreased radiotracer accumulation depending on the tumor’s characteristics.
Stress fractures may be subtle, appearing as a linear or curvilinear photopenic region.
Prosthetic loosening demonstrates intense focal uptake at the bone-implant interface.
In summary, bone scanning is a highly sensitive nuclear medicine technique that provides valuable functional information about bone pathology. By detecting abnormalities in bone metabolism, scans can identify a variety of bone diseases earlier and more accurately than conventional imaging methods. With its wide range of clinical applications, bone scintigraphy remains an essential tool for orthopedic and oncologic diagnosis and management.

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