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Interpretation of Bone Scans

Donald E. Butler, MD; Marshall Brucer, MD
JAMA. 1974;229(13):1783. doi:10.1001/jama.1974.03230510057027.
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An informal survey of nonacademic nuclear medicine laboratories indicates that about three fourths do bone scans; most do only a few, but some do more than 50 a month. Approximately 800,000 were done in 1973.

The indications for the procedure are simple. The patient has cancer, primarily of the breast, prostate gland, or lung, or has recently developed pain seemingly localized to bone. The choice of therapy hinges on the presence and extent of metastases to bone.

The interpretation of the scan is usually simple. It is read as "within normal limits," or it is equivocal for various reasons, or it shows one or more regions of definite osteoblastic activity. A few laboratories report 75% of their scans as "normal." Some report almost no "normals." The frequent occurrence of a "normal" bone roentgenogram with an "abnormal" bone scan, and the less frequent "abnormal" roentgenogram with "normal" scan causes confusion among


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