Difference Between Bone Scan and Bone Density Scan (With Table)

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.

Bone Scan vs Bone Density Scan

The primary difference between a bone scan and a bone density scan lies in the fact that in the case of bone scan, which also has another name as Scintigraphy, it uses medicine that has radioactive or nuclear properties that are into the body. But in the case of a bone density scan, x-rays are used or projected into the person’s bone. It shows the density using the principle of how much beam is taken up by it. 

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 of this procedure, a camera that can detect gamma rays is used to see the place where bone metabolism is high, which can detect cancers, tumors 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. 

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. Other internal factors, a bone scan is being widely used. Cancer, tumor, 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 tumor 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, tumors 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. 

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 the nuclear material that is helpful in the bone density scan. 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 pass into the bones are 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 as to whether they have osteoporosis or not.  T score, which is a point given to a person after this scan, if found above 2.5, it detects osteoporosis. 

Main Difference Between Bone Scan and Bone Density Scan

  1. A bone scan uses a 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, tumors 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 usually 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. 


In the present day, where it’s not uncommon to get a disease, medical procedures have been our lifesavers. The procedures of bone scan and bone density scan are being used a lot in the present day, the former to detect cancer, tumors, and infections and the before finding out osteoporosis. These are very important in the present-day world. 

With the advancement of science, the lifestyle of people has changed considerably. Diseases can happen to anyone. Hence, taking precautions is what matters the most. These tests can be conducted also as a precautionary measure. These tests have helped us immensely and will continue to improve with the flow of time.


  1. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1034/j.1600-0501.2001.012001079.x
  2. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0278416584900047
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