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Liver and Spleen Scan

A liver and spleen scan is a nuclear scan that is done to look at these organs for disease.

During a liver camera.gif and spleen camera.gif scan, a radioactive tracer substance is put into a vein (IV) in the arm. It moves through the blood to the liver and spleen camera.gif. Areas of the liver and spleen where the tracer collects in large amounts show up as bright spots in the pictures. Areas where the tracer collects in low amounts or does not show up are seen as dark spots. The pattern in which the tracer spreads through the liver and spleen can help find cysts, abscesses, certain types of tumors, or problems with liver function.

Scans of the liver and the spleen are done at the same time.

Why It Is Done

A liver and spleen scan is done to:

  • Check for diseases of the spleen or liver camera.gif. If liver disease has been diagnosed, a liver scan can help show how well the liver is working.
  • Look for cancer in the liver.
  • See if cancer has spread (metastasized) to the liver or spleen.
  • Show the condition of the liver and spleen after a belly injury.

How To Prepare

Before your liver and spleen 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.
  • 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 has bismuth in the last 4 days. Barium and bismuth can block a clear picture.

You will empty your bladder right before the scan.

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 liver and spleen scan is often done by a nuclear medicine technologist. The scan pictures are read by a radiologist or nuclear medicine specialist.

You will need to take off any jewelry. You may need to take off all or most of your clothes. You will be given a gown to wear during the test.

During the test

The technologist cleans the site on your arm where the radioactive tracer will be injected. A small amount of the radioactive tracer is then injected.

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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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