Bone scans often FAIL to show tailbone cancer or coccyx injury

A “bone scan” is a test performed by the nuclear medicine part of a radiology center.

The nuclear medicine bone scan is generally considered to be very good for detecting bone destruction from things like bone cancer (malignancy), bone infection (osteomyelitis), or bone injuries (such as fractures).

If the bone scan is truly being done to look for tailbone pain (coccyx pain), you must make sure that the bone scan actually includes the tailbone (coccyx)!

  • Many doctors are unaware that a standard nuclear medicine bone scan does NOT include views of the tailbone.
  • In the standard view, the images are done from the front or the back, and either way the view of the tailbone and lower sacrum is blocked by the nuclear medicine material in the urinary bladder at the front of the pelvis.
  • (Bone scans use nuclear medicine material that lights up bony fractures, tumors, etc. Is nuclear medicine material is given intravenously through the IV, then filtered by the kidneys and it collects in the urine within the urinary bladder at the front of the pelvis, where it typically blocks the view of the tailbone.)
  • I have unfortunately seen MANY patients who previously had a bone scan done were tailbone problems, only to be told that it was normal, and months later when they come for a consult with me we realize that the bone scan never even included any views showing the tailbone at all. It’s absolutely crazy, but it happens very often.
  • One approach is to obtain a paper copy of the nuclear medicine bone scan official radiology report and confirm whether the radiologist actually comments explicitly on the appearance of the tailbone.
  • Further, obtain an electronic copy of the actual own scan images (typically on a computer CD) and ask your treating physician to specifically point to the tailbone on the images. Often, the doctor will be surprised to realize that the tailbone was not included at all! 

Patrick Foye, M.D.

Founder and Director at The Tailbone Pain Center
Patrick Foye, M.D.
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