What are nuclear bone scans and what do they mean? Bone scans use a chemical (nucleotide) that is picked up by actively rebuilding bone tissues. This nucleotide is then picked up by the bone scan. Bone tissues that are actively functioning (all bone tissue is active but some is more active than others) such as bone cancers, arthritis, fractures, etc. show up as "bright" areas on the bone scan. Thus, a bright area on the bone scan doesn't mean a specific diagnosis but helps when one suspects something. For instance, if one is checking for bony infiltration from cancer, the bone scan will show where this is possibly occurring. It could also show if a fracture is old or new or areas of significant arthritis. The important thing to look for is symmetry. Compare the right and left sides for differences. If one side has an area that is brighter than the other side then this implies increased activity. Dexa bone scans are different and look at osteoporosis issues. The picture below shows a normal nuclear bone scan except for a possible rib fracture.This site is for patient information purposes and can be shared to the benefit of all. If anything on this website is known to be copyrighted material, please let us know and we will immediately correct this.