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Gallbladder Scan

Risks

Allergic reactions to the radioactive tracer are rare. Most of the tracer will be eliminated from your body (through your urine or stool) within a day, so be sure to promptly flush the toilet and thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water. The amount of radiation is so small that it is not a risk for people to come in contact with you following the test.

Occasionally, some soreness or swelling may develop at the injection site. These symptoms can usually be relieved by applying moist, warm compresses to your arm.

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.

Results

A gallbladder scan camera.gif is a special nuclear scanning test that is done to check gallbladder camera.gif function. The results of a gallbladder scan are available in 2 days.

Gallbladder scan
Normal:

The radioactive tracer flows evenly through the liver and then into the gallbladder and the beginning of the small intestine (duodenum camera.gif).

The gallbladder is normal in size, shape, and location.

Abnormal:

The tracer may not be removed normally from the bloodstream by the liver, meaning possible liver disease.

The gallbladder does not contract or empty normally.

The tracer may not reach the gallbladder, meaning inflammation or blockage of the duct by a gallstone.

The tracer may not reach the beginning of the small intestine (duodenum), meaning blockage of a bile duct by a stone, a tumor, infection, or inflammation of the pancreas.

Pain occurs when the gallbladder empties the tracer.

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 gallbladder scan is not usually done during pregnancy because the radiation could damage the developing baby (fetus).
  • Barium and bismuth. If a gallbladder scan is needed, it should be done before any tests that use barium (such as a barium enema).
  • The inability to remain still during the test.
  • Being allergic to morphine.

What To Think About

  • A gallbladder ultrasound test may also be done to find problems of the gallbladder. The ultrasound test provides more information about the shape and size of the gallbladder than a nuclear scan does. But the nuclear scan can provide information about how well the gallbladder is functioning and whether the bile ducts are blocked. To learn more, see the topic Abdominal Ultrasound.
  • The results of a gallbladder scan should be interpreted along with your symptoms and the results of other tests, such as a physical examination and an ultrasound. Abnormal results from a gallbladder scan do not necessarily mean that the gallbladder needs to be removed.
  • A test called endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatogram (ERCP) can be done to find blockage of the bile duct. To learn more, see the topic Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiopancreatogram (ERCP).
  • A magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) method called MR cholangiopancreatogram (MRCP) may also be done to find blockage of the bile duct.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: October 17, 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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