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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.
  • 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
Current as ofNovember 29, 2012
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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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