Nuclear scintigraphy (more commonly known as 'bone scanning') has been used for a number of years in horses to discover the site of pain in difficult cases of lameness and skeletal pain. We are now using this technique in small animals, which is at the forefront of diagnostic techniques.
Some radioactive material is injected into the blood which binds to the bone crystals. This material binds more where there is higher blood flow, such as in an area that may be inflamed or repairing due to injury. The radiation produced is then picked up by a gamma camera to produce a picture.
An animal having a bone scan will require a sedative to keep still. They will need to stay in the practice for two days afterwards as they produce radioactive urine and faeces following the procedure. The radioactive material used decays very rapidly and produces gamma radiation, which is no more harmful than x-rays.
Bone scanning is not often required to determine the site of pain in small animals, but we have successfully used this technique in a number of dogs with lameness and in a cat with spinal pain.