Bone Survey

Author: Courtney Misher, MPH, BS R.T.(T)
Last Reviewed: August 01, 2022

A bone survey, also called a skeletal survey, is a series of x-rays taken to look at the body's bones. Bone surveys are used to look for bones affected by cancer.

Skull image from a skeletal survey in a patient with myeloma. Note the "lytic lesions" that look like holes in the bone.

Bone surveys are often used to diagnose multiple myeloma or to see how far the disease has progressed. Multiple myeloma causes the bone to break down and there can be lesions that look like holes in the bones (lytic lesions) on x-rays. Bone surveys can also show:

  • Loss or thinning of the bone (Osteoporosis or osteopenia).
  • Bone fractures (breaks).
  • Past bone injuries.

How do I prepare for a bone survey?

Wear comfortable clothes and shoes that are easy to change in and out of. The appointment takes at least an hour. The amount of radiation you receive is small. If you are pregnant, you should let your provider know.

What can I expect during the test?

During the test, the radiology technician will take a series of x-rays. The exam will take 20-40 minutes, depending on how many x-rays are needed. You will either be lying down or standing up for the x-rays. The technician will put you in different positions to get the best images of all your bones.

The technician will come and go from the room when taking the x-rays to avoid radiation exposure. When they leave the room they will be nearby, in an area where they can see and hear you.

How do I get the results of my bone survey?

A radiologist reviews the x-rays and writes a report for your provider. The report usually details normal and abnormal findings. Your provider will talk to you about your results.

If your bone scan was done to look at multiple myeloma or another type of cancer, your provider will be looking for differences in the bone that are not normal such as lytic lesions, lucent lesions, or punched-out lesions.

If you have any questions about your bone survey or the results, you should speak with your provider.

American Cancer Society. (2018). Tests to Find Multiple Myeloma. Retrieved from

Gómez León, N., Aguado Bueno, B., Herreros Pérez, M., León Ramírez, L. F., Alegre, A., Colletti, P. M., Rubello, D., Carreras, J. L., & Delgado Bolton, R. C. (2021). Agreement Between 18F-FDG PET/CT and Whole-Body Magnetic Resonance Compared With Skeletal Survey for Initial Staging and Response at End-of-Treatment Evaluation of Patients With Multiple Myeloma. Clinical nuclear medicine, 46(4), 310–322.

Spinnato, P., Filonzi, G., Conficoni, A., Facchini, G., Ponti, F., Sambri, A., De Paolis, M., Cavo, M., Salizzoni, E., & Nanni, C. (2021). Skeletal Survey in Multiple Myeloma: Role of Imaging. Current medical imaging, 17(8), 956–965.

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