A gallbladder scan is a nuclear scanning test that is done to check gallbladder function. The scan can find blockage in the tubes (bile ducts) that lead from the liver to the gallbladder and small intestine (duodenum ).
During a gallbladder scan, a radioactive tracer substance is injected into a vein in the arm. The liver removes the tracer from the bloodstream and adds it to the bile that normally flows through the bile ducts to the gallbladder. The gallbladder then releases the tracer into the beginning of the small intestine. A special camera (gamma) takes pictures of the tracer as it moves through the liver, bile ducts, gallbladder, and small intestine.
Why It Is Done
A gallbladder scan is done to:
- Help determine the cause of pain in the upper right side of the belly.
- Check the function of the gallbladder. A gallbladder ultrasound may be done before a gallbladder scan to help find structural problems in the gallbladder. If the ultrasound is normal, a gallbladder scan often is done to check gallbladder function.
- Help determine the cause of jaundice.
- Find blockage of the tubes (bile ducts) leading from the liver to the gallbladder and small intestine (duodenum).
- Look for leakage of bile after surgery or an injury.
How To Prepare
Before your gallbladder scan, tell your doctor if:
- You are or might be pregnant.
- You are breast-feeding. The radioactive tracer used in this test can get into your breast milk. Do not breast-feed your baby for 2 days after this test. During this time, you can give your baby breast milk you stored before the test, or you can give formula. Discard the breast milk you pump for 2 days after the test.
- Within the past 4 days, you have had an X-ray test using barium contrast material (such as a barium enema) or have taken a medicine (such as Pepto-Bismol) that contains bismuth. Barium and bismuth can interfere with test results.
Do not eat or drink for 4 to 12 hours before a gallbladder scan. Your doctor will tell you how long depending on what the test is being done for.
You may be asked to sign a consent form before the test.
Talk to your doctor about any concerns you have regarding the need for the test, its risks, how it will be done, or what the results will mean. To help you understand the importance of this test, fill out the medical test information form(What is a PDF document?).