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Your doctor has requested a White Blood Cell (WBC) scan. This booklet will answer some of the questions you may have. 

What is a White Blood Cell scan? 

A white blood cell scan helps us to detect infection and inflammation in bone, soft tissue or other organs. 

What is involved?  

You will be given four appointments over the course of two days for your test: 

Day 1, first visit (15 min): When you arrive in the department, a technologist will explain the entire procedure to you and then give you the opportunity to ask any questions. The technologist will put an identity bracelet on your arm. Please keep this on for the duration of the test. The technologist will then take a sample of your blood. A specially trained technologist will separate your white blood cells and attach a small amount of radioactive tracer to them. This process takes approximately two hours to perform. The technologist will give you a return time. 

Day 1, second visit (15 min): The technologist will inject your radiolabeled white blood cells into a vein in your arm. There are no known side effects from this injection. You will be given a time to return later the same day, approximately three to four hours later, or imaging may start immediately depending on your condition. 

Day 1, third visit (1 hour): You will be asked to remove all external metal from the area to be scanned and lie on our imaging table. The technologist will then use a special detector, called a gamma camera to scan your body. Depending on the information that your physician is looking for, we may scan only specific parts of your body or the entire body. We may also take some three-dimensional images of your body. 

Day 2, fourth visit (30 min to 1 hour): You may be asked to return the following morning for delayed images of the area of interest. Occasionally, this fourth visit may not be needed. The technologist will let you know if this part is not required. 

In-between your appointments, there are no restrictions for this test. You may eat and drink and are free to leave the department and return later. The technologist will ask you to drink extra fluids and empty your bladder often. This will give us better pictures when you come back for your scan. 

Please note: Depending on the clinical indication, a WBC scan is usually performed together with a Bone Scan. In some cases, it is also necessary to perform a Bone marrow scan. You will be given all the appointments and instructions based on what is required in your case. 

Do I need to prepare for the scan? 

  • Bring your Health card. 
  • No special preparation is required. You will be able to eat, drink and take your medications as usual on the day of your scan.  
  • If you have bandages on your ulcers or wounds, please change them before coming each day if possible. 
  •  We would like you to dress in clothing that does not have any metal. Please refrain from wearing any jewelry. Please leave all valuables at home. 
  • Since there may be a few hours waiting time between imaging during this procedure, it may be beneficial to bring some reading material. There is free Wi-Fi available. 
  • Please notify our booking office at the time of scheduling your appointment if you have any concerns regarding claustrophobia, lying still, require a mechanical lift for transfer to the imaging bed, have a language barrier or any other special needs, so that appropriate arrangements can be made ahead to provide you with the best possible care. 

Will it hurt? 

Only the pinprick of the injection needle may hurt a bit. You may have had a blood test in the past. This is much the same. 

Is the radiation dangerous? 

The injection contains a small amount of radioactive tracer which emits gamma rays (these are like X-rays). The radiation dose is very low and will disappear by itself after a month. The results of your scan will give your doctor useful information about your condition and will help them plan your treatment. The benefits of having the scan far outweigh any potential risk from the small radiation dose. 

Do I need to do anything after the scan? 

No special precautions are needed after the scan. If you are travelling across any borders in the seven days after your scan, please ask us for further advice. Border crossings and airports have very sensitive radiation detectors which may pick up tiny amounts of radioactivity remaining after your scan. We will give you a letter that you can show to customs officials at border crossings or airports. 

Is there anything I should tell the staff before the injection? 

Please tell us if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.  

What about breastfeeding? 

Breastfeeding may need to be interrupted for up to 24 hours after the exam, during which time milk should be pumped and discarded. Prepare for your exam accordingly. 

How will I get the results of my scan? 

A specially trained doctor will examine the pictures. This is normally done soon after the end of the scan. A report is then sent to the doctor who asked us to do the scan. Your doctor will normally receive the report within one to two weeks. You will also have access to the report on MyChart as soon as it is released. 

If you have questions about the scan results or report, please contact your doctor directly. They are best able to interpret the report for you. 

Will this test cost me money? 

No. This test is paid for by the healthcare system. The test costs over one thousand dollars, so please notify the department at 613-761-4831 if you cannot make your appointment. 

What should I do if I cannot make my appointment? 

If you cannot make you appointment, it is important that you notify the department at 613-761-4831 as soon as possible. Failure to make your appointment results in wasting of expensive materials that are ordered especially for your appointment and also reduces availability to other patients. Missed appointments may also result in delays of your treatments. 

Directions and Parking 

Civic Campus  1053 Carling Avenue – 1st Floor Tel.: 613-761-4831, option 8 Hours: Mon. – Fri., 8:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. Directions: From within the Civic Campus, take the “C” elevators to the 1st Floor and follow the signs to Nuclear Medicine. Patients may also ask for directions at the patient information desk. General Campus  501 Smyth Road – Main level Tel.: 613-761-4831, option 8 Hours: Mon. – Fri., 7:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. Directions: From the main entrance, follow the signs on the main level (located at the public elevators). Patients may also ask for directions at the patient Information desk. 
Park in either parking lot off Carling Avenue (P7) or in the multistory parking garage (P1).  Park in the parking garage which is located beside the main entrance just off Smyth Road.  

Parking instructions 

  • All parking lots are automated  
  • Take the parking ticket with you inside.  
  • When you have completed your appointment, you can pay by cash or credit card at one of our pay stations, or you can pay by credit card with express exit at the parking lot exit gates (the grace period after payment to leave facility is 20 minutes). 
  • Payment methods: 
    • Pay stations: Cash or credit card (Visa, MasterCard or American Express). 
  • Maximum parking fee is $13.00 

Visit The Ottawa Hospital’s website for additional directions and parking instructions and maps.

Last updated on: April 26th, 2022