Bone Scan vs Bone Density Scan: Difference and Comparison

Bone scan and bone density scan are the terms that differ from the rays used during scanning. Also, both diseases deal with different kinds of bone diseases.

These terms would have come across from many of us frequently. Be a member of the family, or be it us. Most of the people might have gotten any one of these procedures done.

Key Takeaways

  1. Bone scans use radioactive tracers to detect abnormalities in bone metabolism and structure.
  2. Bone density scans measure bone mineral density to diagnose osteoporosis or assess fracture risk.
  3. Bone scans are more sensitive to changes in bone metabolism, while bone density scans focus on structural changes.

Bone Scan vs Bone Density Scan

A bone scan is an imaging test using a radioactive tracer that examines bone for irregularities that could indicate infection or cancer, while a bone density scan looks at the density of bone to evaluate the likelihood of a person is to develop osteoporosis using both low and high-energy X-ray beams.

Bone Scan vs Bone Density Scan

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The bone scan is a scientific method which helps to determine the presence of bone disease. It uses a medicine with a nuclear property that is injected into the body of the patient. The medication is injected into the arm especially.

After a wait of a few hours for this procedure, a camera that can detect gamma rays is used to see the place where bone metabolism is high, which can detect cancers, tumours spreading over to bones, infections in bones, etc. 

Bone Density Scan, however, is another scientific method to determine some different types of bone diseases. It uses two distinct beams consisting of X-rays, and those beams are focused on the patient’s body.

After we subtract the number of X-rays absorbed by the soft tissues, we can determine the density of the bone. It is helpful to detect diseases like osteoporosis. 

Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonBone ScanBone Density Scan
Rays usedIt uses a nuclear medicine that is injected into the body. It uses 2 x-rays that are projected to the body of the patients. 
Diseases it detectsIt detects serious cancers, tumors, and bone infectionsIt detects diseases such as osteoporosis. 
ProcedureThe medicine is INJECTED into the body. No injecting is required, the rays are just projected over the body. 
Age groups concernedIt can be done to any age group when symptoms are seen. Mostly females above the age of 65 and males above the age of 70 are advised to perform this test. 
Number of steps involvedIt is a three-step procedure and is time-consumingIt has 2 stages and is less time consuming

What is Bone Scan? 

In the present day, where man is the storehouse of diseases. Due to an unhealthy lifestyle. For other internal factors, a bone scan is widely used.

Cancer, tumour, or infection can happen to anyone, be it a vegan fitness freak or an average couch potato. This test is a great way to help in taking precautions.

It is the best treatment before the condition has gotten worse. In the field of medicine, this is a true revolution. 

Bone Scan, which has the scientific name of Scintigraphy, uses medicine that has a nuclear property. When the patient feels unexplainable pain in their body, or if some tumour cases are detected before, they are free to take this test.

At first, they get injected with nuclear medicine on any part of their arm. They have to wait for a few hours for the medication to move throughout the body.

After the wait, a gamma-detecting camera checks where the metabolism or changes occurring in the bone is higher than the natural level. 

This procedure takes three steps. It detects bone cancer, tumours that have spread after coming in contact with the bone, infections relating to bones, and such diseases.

It is a sensitive technique and detects change quickly. The radioactive medicine slowly goes away from the body after a few days. 

bone scan

What is Bone Density Scan? 

Bone density scan is also a method of scanning our bones. It’s different from the bone scan as its purposes and techniques are different.

It uses X-rays instead of nuclear material, which is helpful in bone density scans. Also, it is helpful in the detection of osteoporosis, which is also called low bone mineral density. 

In the case of a bone scan, two different types of X-rays come into play. It is because one type of ray alone can’t accurately trace out the density of bone marrow inside our bone.

No injection of any material is needed. So, for this procedure, the patient is made to be laid down, and a bone density scanner uses two beams of X-rays on the patient’s body.

After this, the amount of X-rays passed inside the bone is measured. It is to find out the density of the bone. If the X-rays pass through soft tissues, it is neglected, and only that which passes into the bones is considered.

It has a particularly preferred age group when this test is safe. According to doctors, women above 65 years and men above 70 years should take this test.

If a person is above 50 years and their bones take a long time to heal after some injury, they should also take this test to be sure whether they have osteoporosis. 

T score, which is a point given to a person after this scan, if found above 2.5, it detects osteoporosis. 

bone scan density

Main Difference Between Bone Scan and Bone Density Scan

  1. A bone scan uses nuclear medicine that’s injected into the body for the scan. However, a bone density scan uses X-rays for conducting the scan. 
  2. A bone scan helps in detecting diseases such as cancers, tumours that have spread, and infections in bones. A bone density scan, on the other hand, helps to find out if a person has osteoporosis. 
  3. A bone scan needs the medicine to be injected into the body. But, the bone density scan doesn’t need an injection into the body. 
  4. The bone scan is done on any age group whenever symptoms of any bone disease appear. Bone density scan has a specific age group for being conducted. 
  5. The bone scan involved three steps. On the other hand, The bone density scan includes two steps to be done. 
Difference Between Bone Scan and Bone Density Scan

Last Updated : 01 August, 2023

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