Bone Scan Cost

Factors affecting bone scan cost
A bone scan, which is also called bone scintigraphy, is one of the common types of nuclear medicine imaging procedure. Basically, nuclear medicine is a branch of imaging where radiopharmaceuticals are used for examining the function and structure of tissues and organs. Bone scintigraphy helps check the structure and function of bones. This procedure involves the administration of a small amount of radiopharmaceutical into a vein. This radioactive substance is also referred to as a radioactive tracer. Tc-99m MDP (where Tc stands for Technetium and MDP stands for methylene diphosphonate) is one of the commonly used radioactive tracers. The standard dose for adults is around 740 Mbq.

The radioactive component of the medication becomes radioactive as it breaks down. This substance causes the body part that is being studied to become radioactive for a short duration. When the ionizing radiation is emitted from the body, it is detected and measured using a gamma camera. This imaging procedure can help detect tumors, infection, or abnormalities in bones. It can also determine the extent of spread of cancer. Also, this scan can help the doctors ascertain if cancer treatment is working or not.

How Is a Bone Scan Performed

The procedure is performed under the supervision of a radiologist who has completed specific training in nuclear medicine.

➠ In the first phase, which is called blood flow phase, images are taken with the gamma camera immediately after the administration of radioactive tracer. This allows the radiologist to analyze the blood flow to the area being scanned.

➠ In the second phase, which is also called blood pool phase, the images are taken about 5 minutes after the administration of the injection. These images can help reveal any soft tissue involvement.

➠ The third phase is also called delayed phase. The radioactive tracer usually takes 2-3 hours to circulate in the blood and get absorbed in the bone. Thus, the patient is asked to come back after 2-4 hours. The person undergoing the scan is asked to empty the bladder, and remove jewelry or metallic items that he/she might be wearing. Thereafter, he/she will have to lie down on the imaging table. During this time, pictures are taken by the gamma camera. A whole body scan can take about 30-45 minutes.

While the task of measuring and administering the radioactive tracer, as well as using the equipment (gamma camera/computer) is performed by the nuclear medicine technologist, the images are interpreted by the radiologist. A bone problem is suspected when hot spots are observed. Basically, hot spots are areas of the bones that absorb more than normal amount of radioactive tracer.

Factors Affecting the Cost of a Bone Scan

A bone scan normally costs anywhere between USD 150 and USD 600. However, the overall cost might vary, depending on certain factors. These include:

Location
It’s likely that hospitals or clinics that are located in metropolitan areas charge more for the bone scan. A radiologist who has completed specific training in nuclear medicine supervises the procedure, whereas a certified nuclear medicine technologist administers the radioactive tracer and handles the equipment. The hospital/clinic charges, radiologist’s fee, and technician’s charges are likely to be higher in cities that have a higher cost of living. However, even in the metropolitan areas or big cities, one can look for non-profit hospitals that provide monetary aid to patients who are poor/uninsured. Also, certain hospitals and imaging centers with a larger patient base might perform the procedure at a lower cost.

Insurance Coverage
Many health insurance companies cover the cost of bone scintigraphy. However, those who are insured must contact their health insurance company to find out whether the full cost or a part of the cost of the bone scan is covered under their plan. You might have to pay nearly 10% to 40% less than the actual cost, depending on the type of health insurance.

Additional Cost
The overall cost is bound to increase, if an additional imaging procedure called single-photon emission computerized tomography (SPECT) is recommended. SPECT is suggested in cases where the two-dimensional images don’t suffice. For instance, imaging procedures such as the SPECT or SPECT-CT (a combination of SPECT and CT) might be recommended by the doctor when he/she suspects infections, fracture, or cancer deep within the bone. SPECT or SPECT-CT provide the three-dimensional images of the part of the body being scanned, thereby providing valuable diagnostic information, which two-dimensional (planar) images cannot provide.

Condition of the Patient
If the patient is affected by a serious medical condition, additional care needs to be taken. Under such circumstances, the patient’s condition has to be monitored while the scan is in progress. Though minimal risks are involved in bone scintigraphy, immediate medical assistance would be required, if the patient develops an allergic reaction. This might contribute to the overall cost.

On a concluding note, a bone scan is a useful imaging technique that enables the early detection of bone-related conditions. It must be noted that this procedure is not recommended for pregnant women and nursing mothers. So, consult your healthcare provider about the risks associated with this imaging procedure. Also, clarify any doubts related to its cost with the hospital/clinic and your insurance company. Those who are uninsured can find out if the hospital offers any financial assistance program.

Electrocardiogram and Echocardiogram – Know the Basic Differences

Difference between electrocardiogram and echocardiogram

Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) and echocardiogram (echo) are two important tests that investigate the heart’s functioning. Both tests provide an easy way to determine the health of your heart. These procedures can help diagnose an underlying abnormality in the working of the heart.

Electrocardiogram vs. Echocardiogram

Working
Electrocardiogram
✦ In an electrocardiogram, electrodes (small sensors) are attached to the chest, which measure the electrical activity of the heart. The electrodes are connected to a machine that plot a graph from the information it receives from the sensors. The graph plotted indicates the strength and pattern of electrical signals.
Echocardiogram
✦ Echo is done by keeping a small device (transducer) on the chest. The device generates high frequency sound waves that pass through the heart walls and are reflected back from the structures within the heart. The transducer receives these returning sound waves, which are then processed by a computer to generate a 2D moving image of the heart.
Function
✦ The ECG test checks your heart’s electrical system. It is this system that generates electrical signals that convey the heart when to beat. These tiny electrical pulses that regulate heartbeats are recorded by the ECG device. The test also measures the signal strength and verifies whether the heart is sending steady electrical signals.
An ECG also records the timing of your electrical signals, which indicates how fast your heart is beating. It evaluates the basic rhythm of the heart, and any disturbances in it can be easily recorded by the ECG.
✦ An echocardiogram can check the pumping capacity of your heart. It determines how well your heart pumps blood around the body, when it beats. It can check whether the heart’s pumping action is becoming weaker, a symptom associated with heart failure. It can calculate the amount of the blood that is pumped out with every heartbeat, thus, indicating the heart’s pumping strength.
Output or Results
✦ As aforementioned, the output of the ECG device is a graph that indicates the intensity and direction of electrical signals generated in the heart. The heart function is evaluated depending upon how the electrical signals get traced on the graph.
✦ With an echo, you see the live pictures of the insides of your heart. The echo test shows a 2D cone-shaped real-time motion of the heart on a monitor. Experts can actually view how the heart is beating. As a result, they are in a better position to evaluate the functioning of the heart. With advancements in the medical field, now an echo test can also show a moving 3D image of the heart. However, it is usually used to diagnose some rare complications of the heart.
Issues that Can Be Detected
✦ An ECG test can help diagnose heart rhythm problems such as heart arrhythmia that causes irregular heartbeats. It can detect if the heart is beating too hard (tachycardia) or too slowly (bradycardia). These issues often arise when the heart’s electrical activity is not working properly.
✦ A moving 2D image generated by an echo test allows accurate assessment of the heart valves. There are 4 valves, each one ensuring one-directional blood circulation through the heart. Heart valve disorders such as stenosis, atresia, and regurgitation that disturb the blood flow through the heart can be detected using echo. It can also determine how severe the valve disease is.
An echo scan can also detect sections of the heart muscle that are not working properly. It can also identify the causes of poor heart muscle function, such as inadequate blood circulation from an earlier heart attack. An echo can also help assess the heart function after a heart attack. Possible blood clots within the heart can also be located using the test.
Similarity
✦ Both ECG and echo tests can evaluate the size of the chambers of the heart. For instance, heart conditions, such as left or right atrial enlargement, can be detected through an ECG test. These tests can also identify abnormal positioning of the heart. Other cardiac structural abnormalities, such as myocarditis (swelling of the heart muscle) and pericarditis (inflammation of the tissue surrounding the heart), can also be diagnosed using an ECG and echo.
Why an Echocardiogram is Better
✦ As an echo scan provides accurate moving 2D visuals of different structures within the heart, the test is more reliable at judging heart health and its pumping action as opposed to an ECG. The direct visualization of the heart chambers in an echo scan is what makes the procedure more accurate in diagnosing heart ailments.
✦ The clarity with which the results are obtained through an echo is something that one cannot expect from an ECG test. Structural abnormalities, such as thickened heart muscle, that need to be interpreted on an ECG, are distinctly visible on an echo test. However, an ECG is better at detecting abnormal heart rhythms that cause heart palpitations, but even then, the doctor may recommend an echo rest to find out the cause of heart rhythm irregularities. On the whole, though an ECG can detect abnormalities in the heart structure, a confirmation is often necessary through an echocardiogram.