Radionuclide Scanning of the Liver, Gallbladder, or Stomach
- Description: Radionuclides are compounds that, when injected into the body, collect in certain organs making them visible by a special type of x-ray machine (gamma scintillation camera). Different radionuclides are used to examine the liver/spleen, gallbladder, stomach, or to locate a site of bleeding in the abdomen. The test is performed in a hospital or outpatient x-ray facility by a radiology technician. The results are interpreted by a Radiologist. Depending on which of the above organs are being examined, the test takes 30-90 minutes.
- Discomfort – Minimal. The radionuclide has to be injected into a vein and there may be some discomfort associated with the infusion of the drug.
- Results – 2-3 days; within hours in emergency situations.
- Risk of Procedure – Minimal risk related to radiation exposure. The test should not be performed if pregnant. Minimal risk of adverse reaction to the medication.
- Risks of Procedure – None.
- Other Names – Liver/spleen scan or liver scan Gallbladder scan, HIDA scan, or biliary scan Gastric emptying scan or stomach scan RBC scan or bleeding scan.
- To identify masses in the liver or spleen.
- To identify cirrhosis of the liver.
- To identify cholecystitis (an infected gallbladder).
- To identify a blockage in the bile ducts draining the liver and gall bladder.
- To determine how well the gall bladder is functioning.
Gastric Emptying Scan
- To determine how well the stomach is emptying solids and liquids after they have been ingested.
- You may be advised that nothing should be consumed for 8 hours before the test, except medications as directed by your doctor.
- You may be asked to wear a hospital gown.
- An intravenous line is placed to administer the radionuclide.
- You lay on an x-ray table.
- The radionuclide is injected into the vein. For a gastric emptying scan, you eat or drink the radionuclide mixed in food or liquid.
- X-ray images are obtained after the radionuclide collects in the organ of interest.
- Depending on which organ is being examined, additional medication may be injected via the vein.
After the Procedure
- You may dress and return to normal activities.
Factors Affecting Results
- Movement can blur the images obtained by the x-ray machine.
- Some diseases may interfere with the proper uptake of the nucleotide, limiting the test.
- The test can determine how well the examined organ is functioning.
- In a bleeding scan, a site of bleeding can be located when the rate of bleeding is very slow.
- The tests are easily tolerated with minimal exposure to x-rays.
- Although abnormal functioning or another abnormality may be identified, the exact cause of the abnormality is not determined by these tests.