Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Information and Resources

Font Size

Gallium Scan

Results

A gallium scan is a nuclear medicine test that uses a special camera to take pictures of certain tissues in the body after a radioactive tracer (radionuclide or radioisotope) makes them visible. The results of a gallium scan are usually available within 2 days after the scans are completed.

Gallium scan
Normal:

The collection and activity of gallium in the bones, liver, spleen, and large intestine (colon) is normal. No areas of unusual gallium accumulation are seen.

Abnormal:

An abnormally high gallium accumulation (hot spot) is present in one or more areas of the body, possibly meaning inflammation, infection, or a tumor.

What Affects the Test

Reasons you may not be able to have the test or why the results may not be helpful include:

  • Pregnancy. A gallium scan is not usually done during pregnancy because the radiation could damage the developing baby (fetus).
  • Having barium or bismuth in your system. If a gallium scan is needed, it should be done before any tests that use barium (such as a barium enema). Taking a medicine (such as Pepto-Bismol) that contains bismuth can also interfere with a gallium scan.
  • Not being able to remain still during the test.

What To Think About

  • A gallium scan is used for specific types of cancers, mainly of the lymph nodes, bones, or bone marrow. A normal scan does not exclude the possibility of cancer, because some types of cancer do not show up on a gallium scan. A gallium scan also cannot determine whether a tumor is cancerous (malignant) or noncancerous (benign).
  • The results of a gallium scan should be interpreted along with the results of other tests, such as a physical exam, blood tests, and X-rays. In many cases, results obtained from a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or positron emission tomography (PET) scan may be as accurate as the results obtained from a gallium scan. For more information, see the topics Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and Positron Emission Tomography (PET).
  • If other nuclear scanning tests need to be done, these tests should be scheduled before a gallium scan because the gallium tracer stays in the body longer than other tracer compounds.

Other Works Consulted

  • Chernecky CC, Berger BJ (2008). Laboratory Tests and Diagnostic Procedures, 5th ed. St. Louis: Saunders.

  • Fischbach FT, Dunning MB III, eds. (2009). Manual of Laboratory and Diagnostic Tests, 8th ed. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.

  • Pagana KD, Pagana TJ (2010). Mosby’s Manual of Diagnostic and Laboratory Tests, 4th ed. St. Louis: Mosby Elsevier.

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerKathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerHoward Schaff, MD - Diagnostic Radiology
Last RevisedNovember 29, 2012
1|2|3

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.

Hot Topics

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors

WebMD Video: Now Playing

Click here to wach video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

Which sex is the worst about washing up? Why is it so important? We’ve got the dirty truth on how and when to wash your hands.

Click here to watch video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

Popular Slideshows & Tools on WebMD

hands on abdomen
Can you catch one?
Woman sitting in front of UV lights
Is yours working?
woman using breath spray
What's causing yours?
womans hand on abdomen
Are you ready for baby?
MS Overview
Recognizing symptoms.
bowl of yogurt with heart shape
Eat for a healthy heart.
woman doing pushups
To help you get fit.
Colored x-ray of tooth decay
Know what to look for.
Woman sitting with child
Do you know the symptoms?
mosquito
Stings, bites, burns, and more.
Allentown, PA
Are you living in one?
Thyroid exam
See how much you know.

Women's Health Newsletter

Find out what women really need.