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    WBC scan

    Leukocyte scan

    A white blood cell (WBC) scan is an imaging test that uses a radioactive material(called a tracer) to look for infection or inflammation in the body. It is a type ofnuclear scan

    How the Test is Performed

    Blood will be taken from one of your veins. White blood cells are separated from the rest of the blood sample. They are then mixed with a small amount of a radioactive material (radioisotope) called indium-111. These cellsare considered "tagged."

    The tagged white blood cells are returned to your body through an inject into the vein2-3 hours later. The tagged cells gather in areas of inflammation or infection.

    Your body will be scanned 6-24 hours later.For the scan, you will lie on a table.The scanner looks like an x-ray machine. It pick upsradiation given off by thetagged white blood cells. A computer creates an image from the radiation that is picked up and displays it on a screen.

    The scan takes about 1 or 2 hours. The scanner is usually located in a hospital, but often the test can be performed on an outpatient basis.

    You do not have to take any special steps after the test is over. Youmay go back to your normal diet, activity, and medicines.

    How to Prepare for the Test

    You do not need special preparation for this test.You must sign a consent form.

    You will need to wear a hospital gown or looseclothing without metal zippers or snaps.You will need to take off jewelry, dentures, or anything with metal before the scan.

    The health care provider may ask that you stop takingantibiotics before this test.

    Tell your health care provider if:

    • You have had a gallium scan within the previous month.
    • You are receiving dialysis, total parenteral nutrition (through an IV), or steroid therapy.
    • You have hyperglycemia.
    • You are taking long-term antibiotics.

    This procedure is NOT recommended if you are pregnant. Tell your health care provider if you are pregnant or trying to become pregnant. Women of childbearing age (before menopause) should use some form of birth control over the course of this procedure.

    How the Test Will Feel

    You will feela sharp prick from the needle when the blood sample is taken and again when it is returned to your vein. The scan itself is painless. Thethe table that you are asked to lie on may be hard or cold. You do not feel the radioactive material.

    Why the Test is Performed

    WBC scanis done to look for ahidden infection. It is particularly useful if your doctor suspects there is an infectionor inflammation in the abdomen or bones.

    Your doctor may suggest thistest if you may havean abscess, osteomyelitis, or unexplained fever, particularly after surgery.

    Normal Results

    A normal result means thattagged cells have not gathered abnormally.

    What Abnormal Results Mean

    Abnormal results may mean you have an active inflammation or infection, such as a liver abscess or abdominal abscess.


    There is a smallexposure to radiation from the radioisotope. The radiation from these materials is very slight, and the materials break down in a very short time.Nearly all radioactivity is gone within 1 or 2 days. There are no known cases of injury from exposure to radioisotopes. The scanner does not give offany radiation.

    Due to theslight radiation exposure, most nuclear scans (including WBC scan) are not recommended for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.

    Veins and arteries vary in size so it may be harder to get a blood sample from some people than others.

    Other risks small risks fromhaving blood include:

    • Too muchbleeding
    • Fainting or feeling light-headed
    • Hematoma (blood accumulating under the skin)
    • Infection (a slight risk any time the skin is broken)

    Veryrarely, a person may have an allergic reaction to the radioisotope. A severe reaction may includeanaphylaxis.


    Segerman D, Miles KA. Radionuclide imaging: general principles. In: Adam A, Dixon AK, eds. Grainger & Allison's Diagnostic Radiology: A Textbook of Medical Imaging. 5th ed. New York, NY: Churchill Livingstone; 2008:chap 7.

    Wilson DJ, Berendt AR. Bone and soft tissue infection. In: Adam A, Dixon AK, eds. Grainger & Allison's Diagnostic Radiology: A Textbook of Medical Imaging. 5th ed. New York, NY: Churchill Livingstone; 2008:chap 51.


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              Tests for WBC scan

              Review Date: 11/9/2012

              Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, David R. Eltz, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.

              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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