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Gallbladder 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 gallbladder scan is usually painless. You may find it hard to remain still during the scan. Ask for a pillow or blanket to make yourself as comfortable as possible before the scan begins.

The test may be uncomfortable if you are having abdominal pain. Try to relax by breathing slowly and deeply.

If cholecystokinin is used during the test, it may cause nausea or abdominal pain. The technologist may ask you about changes in your pain during the 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 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.


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

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.


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.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: November 14, 2014
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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