What is a HIDA scan?

A HIDA scan is a procedure done to see how well your liver and gallbladder are working. The liver makes bile that helps your body break down the fat in food, and ducts carry bile to the gallbladder. The gallbladder is a small sac under your liver on your right side that stores bile. The bile duct carries bile to the small intestines. The bile helps you digest fats in the food you eat.

When is it used?

A HIDA scan may be done if you are having pain in the upper right side of your belly that your healthcare provider thinks may be caused by your gallbladder. The HIDA scan can help your provider diagnose:

  • Gallstones that didn’t show up on ultrasound
  • Gallbladder or liver disease, such as a gallbladder that has stopped working
  • Blockage of bile ducts
  • Bile leakage
  • Problems with the way the bile ducts were formed before you were born

The scan may be done if other tests fail to diagnose a liver or gallbladder problem.

How do I prepare for this procedure?

  • You may or may not need to take your regular medicines the day of the procedure. Tell your healthcare provider about all medicines and supplements that you take. Ask your provider if you need to avoid taking any medicine or supplements before the procedure.
  • Tell your healthcare provider if you have any food or medicine allergies.
  • Follow any other instructions your healthcare provider gives you.
  • Ask any questions you have before the procedure. You should understand what your healthcare provider is going to do. You have the right to make decisions about your healthcare and to give permission for any tests or procedures.
  • Before your scan it is also important to tell your provider if:
    • There is any possibility you are pregnant. Most of the time you should not have the scan if you are pregnant.
    • You are breastfeeding. You will need to discard your milk for 1 to 2 days after the scan.
    • You have had any recent medical procedures or medicines with barium or bismuth—for example, you have had a barium enema or you have been taking Pepto-Bismol.

What happens during the scan?

You will lie on your back on the exam table. The technician will inject a chemical called a radioactive tracer into a vein in your arm. The tracer attaches to the bile in your liver and gallbladder.

A large camera will take pictures of the tracer as it passes through your liver, gallbladder, and intestines. You will need to stay very still while the pictures are being taken.

In some cases, your healthcare provider may need to inject a medicine to make your gallbladder contract. This may cause cramping in your upper belly.

The procedure usually takes about an hour. In some cases, you will need to return to the X-ray department later in the day or the next day for more scanning.

What happens after the scan?

You can go home after the scan is completed. Your body will get rid of the radioactive chemical over the next few hours. You may be able to flush the tracer out faster by drinking lots of water.

Follow your healthcare provider’s instructions. Ask your provider:

  • If there are activities you should avoid and when you can return to your normal activities
  • How to take care of yourself at home
  • What symptoms or problems you should watch for and what to do if you have them

Make sure you know when you should come back for a checkup. Keep all appointments for provider visits or tests.

What are the risks of the scan?

Every procedure or treatment has risks. You could have an allergic reaction to the injected material. Ask your healthcare provider how this risk applies to you.

The amount of radioactive material given for this scan is very small and is not a risk.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2014-12-22
Last reviewed: 2014-12-22
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.

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