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Gallium Scan

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.

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.

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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