My bone scan experience + results

As I was getting ready to leave from work Thursday morning, I got a call from St. Paul’s hospital asking me if I could come in that day for my bone scan because they had a last minute cancellation. In a way, I’m glad it worked out like this because little notice meant less time to fret about it. The process is relatively simple, but it’s not one that I’d willingly repeat again.

The scan happened in two parts.

12:45pm (Part 1)
At my first visit, they have you lie down in a bed and ask you a few standard questions – are you pregnant, breast feeding, etc. Then they inject you with a little radioactive dye that runs through your veins.

This explanation helped explain what this radioactive dye does:

“As the dye spreads through your body, the bone’s cells naturally gravitate to areas that need repair. The dye’s radioactive tracers follow these cells and collect in spots where bone is damaged.

After enough time has passed, your doctor will use a special camera to scan the bones. The damaged areas — where the dye has settled — appear as dark spots on the image.”

They took some initial images that took about 5 minutes to complete and then gave me some questionnaires for me to fill out before I came back for part 2.

I went to a nearby cafe to do work while I waited for my next appointment. You’re instructed to drink at least 1L of water in between appointments to reduce the amount of radiation my body absorbs and help take better images (at least that’s what I was told). I tried my best!!!

5:10pm (Part 2)
When I went back, they had me lie flat on my back with my knees in the air for 5 minutes while the machine took some images. After that was finished, I had to lie my legs down flat with my toes pointing to the ceiling, and she secured them lightly to a plastic board that kept my foot flexed. The scanner circles around your entire body to form a 3D bone image. That took 19 minutes.

After the scanner had finished, the bed I was lying on started moving me into the back part of the machine, which would take 3D images. This took another 5 minutes of lying still.

Yesterday morning, I hiked up a mountain with coworkers to watch the sunrise. That afternoon, I got a call from the hospital confirming that I had a stress fracture. Life’s timing is funny.

It was cold in the room. I could have used a blanket. I was exhausted, and I felt really nauseous by the time it was over. I had to lay perfectly still, so I alternated between staring at the ceiling, and at the timer on a monitor right above me. Emotionally, I was still a mess. The hospital was using its expensive resources to confirm an injury that I GAVE myself from a hobby.

I wish I could understand how this happened (I still hope to get some answers there), because I really hope that I never have to get another bone scan again. Whenever I think back to when it happened, I try to remember if there were any signs that it was coming. The most frustrating thing about this was that I was feeling fine. After my first stress fracture in 2011, I promised myself that I would never run through bad pain ever again. I have kept that promise and have stayed away from bone-related injuries ever since. Until now, obviously. I was not running through pain a long time (2 days, max, and that was me assessing how bad the pain was). I was not running relatively high mileage. I was not running too fast (HR average for those runs were below 150 bpm). I was barely doing speed work. The only thing I was doing was rotating between a bunch of different types of shoes with a wide range of drops. and I did add in some more exercises in addition to running (hiking, new gym routines which were supposed to get me stronger for running!). The most people can say to me is, “these things just happen out of nowhere sometimes. It sucks, but it’s true”. Well, I honestly can’t say that I would have done anything differently based on pain.

That is not a satisfactory ‘reason’ for me. Plenty of people run lots and don’t get stress fractures. I hope to get some more answers soon. I’m in the process of doing some blood tests (they are taking a while as they revolve around my menstrual cycle). I might see a naturopath, since it’s covered with my benefits. I may also see a sports doctor since the clinic I have been seeing over here hasn’t been the greatest. Perhaps I should also re-check my iron levels again since they were low this year.

The Results
I actually got a call from the hospital the next afternoon. I was surprised – I don’t think it’s standard for them to call me directly. Nonetheless, I was grateful to have my results. The doctor confirmed that it was a distal fibula stress fracture. What we expected and I’m actually relieved to know for sure. I hope I never have to feel the same kind of pain again, but I also feel like if I do, I won’t have to get a bone scan again to confirm it.

Next Steps
My physio made it very simple for me. When I can hop on the injured foot for 30 seconds for 7 days in a row, then I can begin a run/walk program. They say it takes an average of 6-8 weeks for this type of stress fracture to heal, and I’m nearing the end of week 6. I did go for a sunrise hike up a mountain yesterday, VERY slowly and obviously I did not run. But my ankle was sore for the rest of yesterday and this morning, so I’m a little worried. Hopefully I did not do any more damage and if all goes well, I might attempt “the hop test” at the end of week 7. Or week 8. Or whenever. In the meantime, I’m going to start going to 1-2 spin classes, and 3-4 power yoga classes for strength. I should probably do more easy spinning or swimming. Maybe the elliptical. I don’t know, I’ll take it week by week. No matter what, coming back to running is going to suck and be hard regardless of what cross training will do. I keep telling myself that I’ll be starting from scratch and as much as that thought sucks, I have to accept it now, otherwise I will have a meltdown later down the road (I might anyway).

So that’s that. My third injury of the year, and by far the worst. Hopefully my last for a long, long time.


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2 thoughts on “My bone scan experience + results”

  1. I know what you are going through. It just happened to me out of the blue that I had torn my minis us and ACL during my morning walking exercise. I wish I had let myself fall instead of trying to land on my feet. The pain lasted for months until a couple more months after surgery and daily rehab. I am finally back on my feet. I’m still grateful that I got through it. I forgot the pain already. Keep looking forward and moving on.

  2. I’m sorry to hear about your fracture but I do think it’s good you have answers. Now you don’t have to wait and think about it anymore because you know. You’re going to move into recovery and come out stronger.

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