Nuclear Scintigraphy (Bone Scan)

Bone scan image: The dark areas indicate increased radioactive isotope uptake.

What is nuclear scintigraphy?

The UF Equine Lameness & Imaging service is equipped with a nuclear scintigraphy unit. Nuclear scintigraphy, or bone scan, is a diagnostic tool used to localize orthopedic conditions in horses such as bone fractures, joint inflammation, osteoarthritis and other injuries that may cause lameness or poor performance. It is especially useful in areas that are difficult to image with traditional modalities such as radiographs (X-rays), including the neck, back and pelvis.

What does nuclear scintigraphy do for my horse?

Nuclear scintigraphy captures images of the horse’s skeleton using a gamma camera that detects a benign radioactive isotope given intravenously. The radioactive isotope travels to bone and abnormal uptake is detected as “hot” or “cold” spots. Uptake of the isotope helps pinpoint sites of injury or problems.

Is nuclear scintigraphy safe for my horse?

Yes, it is safe for your horse and is a relatively short procedure lasting only a few hours. The radioactive isotope is benign. The isotope decays 97% in 30 hours, so horses are able to leave the day following the procedure.

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