A gallium scan is a nuclear medicine test that can check for problem areas in certain tissues in your body.
A radioactive tracer (tracer) called gallium citrate is injected into a vein in your arm. It moves through your bloodstream and into certain tissues. These tissues include your bones, liver, and intestine, and areas that are inflamed or have a buildup of white blood cells. After the tracer builds up in your body, a special camera takes pictures. The pictures show the areas where the amount of tracer is higher than normal. These areas are called hot spots.
It often takes the tracer a few days to build up. So the pictures (scans) are usually taken at 2 days and again at 3 days after you get the tracer. The tracer stays in you until your body gets rids of it through urine or stool (feces).
Why It Is Done
A gallium scan is done to:
- Find the source of an infection that is causing a fever.
- Look for an abscess or certain infections, especially in the bones.
- Check the response to antibiotic treatment.
- Diagnose inflammatory problems such as pulmonary fibrosis or sarcoidosis.
- Find certain types of cancer (such as lymphoma). The scan also may be done to see if cancer has spread (metastasized) to other areas of the body. Or it may check how well a cancer treatment is working.
How To Prepare
Before this test, tell your doctor if:
- You are or might be pregnant.
- You are breast-feeding.
- If you plan to no longer feed your baby your breast milk after the test, stop breast-feeding 2 weeks before the test. The radioactive tracer will not build up in your breast tissue.
- If you will continue to breast-feed after the test, talk with your doctor about how long to wait to use your milk after the test. Many doctors suggest waiting 4 weeks before you give your breast milk to your baby. This is because the tracer can pass to your baby. Some doctors may advise you to stop breast-feeding completely after this scan.
- Within the 4 days before the scan, you have: Barium and bismuth can affect the test results.