Gallbladder radionuclide scan
Gallbladder radionuclide scan is a test that uses radioactive material to check gallbladder function or to look for signs of an infection or bile duct obstruction.
The health care provider will inject a radioactive chemical called a gamma emitting tracer into a vein. This material will collect primarily in the liver and then flows with bile into the gallbladder.
You lie face up on a table under a scanner called gamma camera. The scanner will detect 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 - 10 minutes for the first half hour and every 15 minutes during the next 90 minutes, if needed. The entire test takes about 1 - 2 hours.
If, after a certain amount of time, the gallbladder can't be seen, the doctor may give you a small injection of morphine, which can help to move the radionuclide into the gallbladder. The morphine may cause you to feel tired after the exam.
You will be told not to eat or drink anything for 4 hours or longer before the test. You must sign an informed consent form.
When the tracer is injected into the vein, there will be a sharp prick from the needle. After the injection, the puncture site may be sore. There is normally no pain during the scan.
This test is very good for detecting acute infection of the gallbladder or blockage of a bile duct. It is also helpful in determining whether there is rejection of a transplanted liver.
- Cholecystitis (gallbladder infection)
- Infection of the gallbladder, ducts, or liver
- Bile duct obstruction
- Bile leaks or abnormal ducts (resulting from cysts)
- Biliary anomalies (abnormal anatomy of the bile system)
- Transplant rejection (after liver transplant)
- Liver disease
- Cancer of the hepatobiliary system
There is a small risk to pregnant or nursing mothers, because the fetus or small child has a greater sensitivity to radioactive chemicals. Unless it is absolutely necessary, the scan will be delayed.
The amount of radiation is small (less than that of a conventional x-ray) and is virtually gone from the body within 1 or 2 days. With increased number of scans, there is some radiation risk.
Since this test is usually not performed unless there is acute pain, suspected gallbladder disease, or gall stones, many patients require special attention after the results of the test are known. If necessary, combined with other imaging (such as CT or ultrasound), the patient may be prepared for surgery following the gallbladder scan.
Reviewed By: Stuart Bentley-Hibbert, M.D., Ph.D., Department of Radiology, Weill Cornell Medical Center, New York, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.