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). See a picture of the
gallbladder and the
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 abdomen.
- 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
- Help determine the cause of
- Find blockage of the tubes (bile
ducts) leading from the liver to the gallbladder and small intestine
- Look for leakage of bile after surgery or an
How To Prepare
Before your gallbladder scan, tell your
- You are or might be pregnant.
are breast-feeding. Use formula (discard your breast milk) for 1 to 2 days
after the scan until the radioactive tracer has been eliminated from your
- 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
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
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?).
How It Is Done
A gallbladder scan is usually done by a
nuclear medicine technologist. The scan pictures are usually interpreted by a
nuclear medicine specialist.
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