29. Hepatobiliary scan blog

A hepatobiliary scan uses a radioactive substance (or tracer) to examine the gallbladder and bile ducts to detect abnormalities such as gallstones or for right-sided, upper abdominal discomfort. The tracer is eliminated by your body as waste, usually within 24 hours.

Tell your physician if you are pregnant or nursing.

You should not eat or drink anything or take any opiod medications for 4 hours prior to your scan.

  • To begin the test, you will have an intravenous cannula placed in a vein in your arm, and a radioactive substance (or tracer) will be injected through the IV. You will not feel any effects from the injection.
  • You will then be positioned on your back on the scanner table and the camera will be placed above your abdomen.
  • Pictures will start approximately 10 minutes after the injection and will be taken every 5-10 minutes for about an hour.
  • If the gallbladder is visualized after an hour of scanning, you will either be administered a medication called ‘sincalide’ or asked to consume a serving of ‘Boost plus’ which is a fat containing product. Both are used to help contract and empty your gallbladder.
  • The sincalide is administered over 60 minutes and pictures are taken throughout the entire 60 minutes. Occasionally, a medication called morphine is given instead of sincalide to help visualize the gallbladder.
  • The length of the exam is 1½-2½ hours.

The radioactive substance given during this procedure is Tc99m choletec.

  • You can resume your normal activities.
  • Increase your fluid intake unless otherwise directed by your doctor.
  • Scan carries only a few risks. They include:

    • Allergic reaction to medications containing radioactive tracers used for the scan
    • Bruising at the injection site
    • Radiation exposure, which is small

    Tell your doctor if there’s a chance you could be pregnant or if you’re breast-feeding. In most cases, nuclear medicine tests, such as the scan, aren’t performed in pregnant women because of potential harm to the baby.

  • Results of a scan include:

    • The radioactive tracer moved freely with the bile from your liver into your gallbladder and small intestine.
    • Slow movement of radioactive tracer. Slow movement of the tracer might indicate a blockage or obstruction, or a problem in liver function.
    • No radioactive tracer seen in the gallbladder. Inability to see the radioactive tracer in your gallbladder might indicate acute inflammation of the gallbladder (acute cholecystitis).
    • Abnormally low gallbladder ejection fraction. The amount of tracer leaving your gallbladder is low after you’ve been given a drug to make it empty, which might indicate chronic inflammation (chronic cholecystitis).
    • Radioactive tracer detected in other areas. Radioactive tracer found outside of your biliary system might indicate a leak.
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Dr. Harsh J Shah