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Gallium Scan

How It Is Done

A gallium scan is usually done by a nuclear medicine technologist. The scan pictures are usually interpreted by a radiologist or nuclear medicine specialist.

The technologist cleans the site on your arm where the radioactive tracer will be injected. A small amount of the radioactive tracer is then injected. You will need to return for the diagnostic scans. Gallium scans are usually done 24 hours (1 day), 48 hours (2 days), and 72 hours (3 days) after the tracer is injected.

When you come in for the scan, you will need to remove any jewelry that might interfere with the scan. You may need to take off all or most of your clothes, depending on which area is being examined (you may be allowed to keep on your underwear if it does not interfere with the test). You will be given a cloth or paper covering to use during the test.

You will lie on your back on a table, and a large scanning camera will be positioned closely above you. After the radioactive tracer is injected, the camera will scan for radiation released by the tracer and produce pictures of the tracer in your tissues. The camera may move slowly above and around your body. The camera does not produce any radiation, so you are not exposed to any additional radiation while the scan is being done.

You may be asked to move into different positions so the area of interest can be viewed from other angles. You need to lie very still during each scan to avoid blurring the pictures. You may be asked to hold your breath briefly during some of the scans.

Each scan may take about 60 to 90 minutes.

How It Feels

You may feel nothing at all from the needle puncture when the tracer is injected, or you may feel a brief sting or pinch as the needle goes through the skin. Otherwise, a gallium scan is usually painless. You may find it difficult to remain still during the scan. Ask for a pillow or blanket to make yourself as comfortable as possible before the scan begins.

Risks

There is always a slight risk of damage to cells or tissue from being exposed to any radiation, including the low level of radiation released by the radioactive tracer used for this test.

Allergic reactions to the radioactive tracer are rare. Most of the tracer will be eliminated from your body (through your urine or stool) within 4 days. The amount of radiation is so small that it is not a risk for people to come in contact with you following the test.

Sometimes you may have soreness or swelling at the injection site. These symptoms can usually be relieved by applying moist, warm compresses to your arm.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: November 29, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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