In the HIDA scan, a radioactive chemical fluid (marker) is injected into a vein in your arm. As this marker travels through the liver to the gallbladder and into the intestine, it can be seen on a scan. The marker can show whether bile ducts are missing or blocked, and other problems.
The marker is handled by the liver like bile. Bile is a fluid produced and excreted by your liver that helps your digestive system break down fats in the foods you eat. Bile is stored in your gallbladder and the gallbladder releases the bile when you eat a meal.
A special nuclear medicine scanner (gamma camera) tracks the flow of the tracer from your liver into your gallbladder and small intestine.
Reasons for the HIDA procedure
A gallbladder scan may be performed in situations where gallbladder disease (cholecystitis) is suspected, such as with severe acute right upper abdominal quadrant pain or when jaundice (yellowed skin and/or eyes) is present. Elevated liver enzymes in a specific blood test may also indicate some type of gallbladder disease.
A gallbladder scan may also be helpful in diagnosing biliary duct obstructions and determining gallbladder function.
There may be other reasons for your doctor to recommend a gallbladder scan.
Risks of the HIDA procedure
The amount of the radionuclide injected into your vein for the procedure is small enough that there is no need for precautions against radioactive exposure. The injection of the radionuclide may cause some slight discomfort. Allergic reactions to the radionuclide are rare, but may occur.
For some patients, having to lie still on the scanning table for the length of the procedure may cause some discomfort or pain.
Patients who are allergic to or sensitive to medications, contrast dyes, or latex should notify their doctor.
If you are pregnant or suspect that you may be pregnant, you should notify your health care provider due to the risk of injury to the fetus from a gallbladder scan. If you are lactating, or breastfeeding, you should notify your health care provider due to the risk of contaminating breast milk with the radionuclide.
There may be other risks depending on your specific medical condition. Be sure to discuss any concerns with your doctor prior to the procedure.
Certain factors or conditions may interfere with the accuracy of a gallbladder scan. These factors may include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Presence of a radionuclide in the body from a previous nuclear medicine procedure within a certain period of time
- Eating and/or drinking within two to eight hours of the procedure
- Prolonged period of fasting (usually greater than 24 hours)
- Administration of hyperalimentation (a form of IV nutrition)
- Liver disease
Before the HIDA procedure
Your doctor will explain the procedure to you and offer you the opportunity to ask any questions that you might have about the procedure.
You will be asked to sign a consent form that gives your permission to do the procedure. Read the form carefully and ask questions if something is not clear.
You will be asked to withhold food and drink for up to eight hours. You should not fast any longer than the period specified by your doctor, as fasting for too long a period of time may affect the accuracy of the test as much as not fasting long enough.
NOTE: Please notify the radiologist or technologist if you areL
- Allergic to latex and/or sensitive to medications, contrast dyes, or iodine.
- If you are pregnant or suspect you may be pregnant, you should notify your doctor.
Based on your medical condition, your doctor may request other specific preparation.
During the HIDA procedure
A gallbladder scan may be performed on an outpatient basis at our surgical center, Midwest Endoscopy or as part of your stay in a hospital. Procedures may vary depending on your condition and your doctor’s practices.
Generally, a gallbladder scan follows this process:
- You will be asked to remove any jewelry, or other objects that may interfere with the procedure.
- You will be asked to remove clothing and will be given a gown to wear.
- An intravenous (IV) line will be started in the hand or arm for injection of the radionuclide.
- The radionuclide will be injected into your vein.
- You will be asked to lie still on a scanning table. You will need to remain still during the procedure, as any movement may affect the quality of the scan.
- The scanner will be placed over the abdominal area in order to detect the gamma rays emitted by the radionuclide in the gallbladder tissue. A series of images will be taken at intervals until the gallbladder is visualized.
- In some cases, you may receive an IV injection of morphine during the procedure to allow better visualization of the gallbladder during an indeterminate test.
- If the radionuclide does not enter the gallbladder within a certain period of time, the scan may be repeated within a few hours to determine if there is a complete or partial obstruction in the biliary tree.
- When the scan has been completed, the IV line will be removed.
While the gallbladder scan itself causes no pain, having to remain still for the length of the procedure might cause some discomfort or pain, particularly in the case of a recent injury or invasive procedure such as surgery. The technologist will use all possible comfort measures and complete the procedure as quickly as possible to minimize any discomfort or pain.
After the HIDA procedure
You should move slowly when getting up from the scanner table to avoid any dizziness or lightheadedness from lying flat for the length of the procedure.
You may be instructed to drink plenty of fluids and empty your bladder frequently for about 24 hours after the procedure to help flush the remaining radionuclide from your body.
The IV site will be checked for any signs of redness or swelling. If you notice any pain, redness, and/or swelling at the IV site after you return home following your procedure, you should notify your doctor as this may indicate an infection or other type of reaction.
If you were asked to fast prior to the procedure, you may either be offered food and drink after the procedure or encouraged to have a meal, unless your doctor tells you differently.
You may resume your usual diet and activities, unless your doctor advises you differently. Your doctor may give you additional or alternate instructions after the procedure, depending on your particular situation.