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Gallbladder radionuclide scan

Radionuclide - gallbladder; Gallbladder scan; Biliary scan; Cholescintigraphy: HIDA; Hepatobiliary nuclear imaging scan

 

Gallbladder radionuclide scan is a test that uses radioactive material to check gallbladder function. It is also used to look for bile duct blockage or leak.

How the Test is Performed

 

The health care provider will inject a radioactive chemical called a gamma emitting tracer into a vein. This material collects mostly in the liver. It will then flow with bile into the gallbladder and then the duodenum or small intestine.

For the test:

  • You lie face up on a table under a scanner called a gamma camera. The scanner detects the rays being emitted from the tracer. A computer displays images of where the tracer is found in the organs.
  • Images will be taken every 5 to 15 minutes. Most of the time, the test takes about 1 hour, but it can take up to four hours.

If the provider cannot see the gallbladder after certain amount of time, you may be given a small amount of morphine. This can help the radionuclide get into the gallbladder. The morphine may cause you to feel tired after the exam.

In some cases, you may be given a medicine during this test to see how well your gallbladder squeezes (contracts).

 

How to Prepare for the Test

 

You need to eat something within a day of the test. However, you must stop eating or drinking 4 hours before the test starts.

 

How the Test will Feel

 

You will feel a sharp prick from the needle when the tracer is injected into the vein. The site may be sore after the injection. There is normally no pain during the scan.

 

Why the Test is Performed

 

This test is very good for detecting a sudden infection of the gallbladder or blockage of a bile duct. It is also helpful in determining whether there is rejection of a transplanted liver or a leak after the gallbladder has been surgically removed.

The test can also be used to detect long-term gallbladder problems.

 

What Abnormal Results Mean

 

Abnormal results may be due to:

  • Abnormal anatomy of the bile system (biliary anomalies)
  • Bile duct obstruction
  • Bile leaks or abnormal ducts
  • Cancer of the hepatobiliary system
  • Gallbladder infection (cholecystitis)
  • Gallstones
  • Infection of the gallbladder, ducts, or liver
  • Liver disease
  • Transplant rejection (after liver transplant)

 

Risks

 

There is a small risk to pregnant or nursing mothers. Unless it is absolutely necessary, the scan will be delayed until you are no longer pregnant or nursing.

The amount of radiation is small (less than that of a regular x-ray). It is almost all gone from the body within 1 or 2 days. Your risk from radiation may increase if you have a lot of scans.

 

Considerations

 

Most of the time, this test is done only if a person has sudden pain that may be from gallbladder disease or gallstones. For this reason, some people may need urgent treatment based on the test results.

This test is combined with other imaging (such as CT or ultrasound). After the gallbladder scan, the person may be prepared for surgery, if needed.

 

 

References

Afdahl NH. Diseases of the gall bladder and bile ducts In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 158.

Wang DQH, Afdahl NH. Gallstone disease. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds. Sleisenger and Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2010:chap 65.

 
  • Gallbladder

    Gallbladder - illustration

    The gallbladder is a muscular sac located under the liver. It stores and concentrates the bile produced in the liver that is not immediately needed for digestion. Bile is released from the gallbladder into the small intestine in response to food. The pancreatic duct joins the common bile duct at the small intestine adding enzymes to aid in digestion.

    Gallbladder

    illustration

  • Gallbladder radionuclide scan

    Gallbladder radionuclide scan - illustration

    The gallbladder radionuclide scan is performed by injecting a tracer (radioactive chemical) into the bloodstream. A gamma camera is used to perform the scan. The camera will detect the gamma rays being emitted from the tracer, and the image of where the tracer is found in the organs is transmitted to a computer. This test is very good for detecting acute infection (cholecystitis) or blockage of a bile duct. It is also helpful in determining whether there is rejection of a transplanted liver.

    Gallbladder radionuclide scan

    illustration

    • Gallbladder

      Gallbladder - illustration

      The gallbladder is a muscular sac located under the liver. It stores and concentrates the bile produced in the liver that is not immediately needed for digestion. Bile is released from the gallbladder into the small intestine in response to food. The pancreatic duct joins the common bile duct at the small intestine adding enzymes to aid in digestion.

      Gallbladder

      illustration

    • Gallbladder radionuclide scan

      Gallbladder radionuclide scan - illustration

      The gallbladder radionuclide scan is performed by injecting a tracer (radioactive chemical) into the bloodstream. A gamma camera is used to perform the scan. The camera will detect the gamma rays being emitted from the tracer, and the image of where the tracer is found in the organs is transmitted to a computer. This test is very good for detecting acute infection (cholecystitis) or blockage of a bile duct. It is also helpful in determining whether there is rejection of a transplanted liver.

      Gallbladder radionuclide scan

      illustration

    A Closer Look

     

    Self Care

     

      Tests for Gallbladder radionuclide scan

       

       

      Review Date: 1/18/2015

      Reviewed By: Jason Levy, MD, Northside Radiology Associates, Atlanta, GA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

      The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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