Thumbnail image of: Gallstones: Illustration

Oral Cholecystogram

What is an oral cholecystogram?

An oral cholecystogram is an X-ray of your gallbladder or bile ducts taken after you swallow a dye.

The liver and gallbladder are part of your digestive system. The liver makes bile that helps your body break down the fat in food. Ducts carry bile to the gallbladder and small intestines. The gallbladder is a small sac under your liver on your right side that stores bile.

When is it used?

This test may be done to check for gallbladder disease or gallstones. Gallstones are hard stone-like objects that build up in the gallbladder. They may be as small as a grain of sand to as large as a golf ball. If stones completely block the gallbladder or bile duct, the flow of bile out of the liver can also be blocked. This causes swelling, irritation, and pain in your liver, your gallbladder, or both. If not treated, swelling can cause your gallbladder to burst, or you could get a serious infection. Both can be life-threatening.

Most gallstones are made from cholesterol. Cholesterol is a kind of fat used by the body to make hormones and to build and keep cells healthy. If there is too much cholesterol in your bile or if the bile stays in your gallbladder too long, hard pieces can form.

Some gallstones are made from bilirubin and calcium. Bilirubin is made from the breakdown of old blood cells. If you have a lot of bilirubin in your bile, it can mix with calcium that is naturally in your bile to form gallstones. If you have bacteria in your bile, it can increase the amount of bilirubin that can make gallstones.

How do I prepare for this procedure?

  • Plan for your care and find someone to give you a ride home after the procedure.
  • Your healthcare provider will tell you when to stop eating and drinking before the procedure. You will be told what kinds of food to eat, and you will be given pills to take the day before the procedure. The dye in these pills will outline the gallbladder on the X-rays. A low-fat diet helps you get more accurate results from this test.
  • Tell your provider if you are or might be pregnant, if you have kidney problems or liver disease.
  • You may or may not need to take your regular medicines the day of the procedure, depending on what they are and when you need to take them. Tell your healthcare provider about all medicines and supplements that you take. Ask your healthcare provider if you need to avoid taking any medicine or supplements before the procedure.
  • 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 tests or procedures.

What happens during this procedure?

A technologist will take several X-rays of your abdomen. The gallbladder and any stones may show up on the X-ray. You may be given something to eat or drink to make the gallbladder work and release dye into the bile ducts and intestine. Then the technologist will take more X-rays of your abdomen.

What happens after this procedure?

The radiologist will send the complete report to your healthcare provider. Ask your healthcare provider:

  • How and when you will hear your test results
  • 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.

What are the risks of this procedure?

Your healthcare provider will explain the procedure and any risks. Some possible risks include:

  • You may have an allergic reaction to the dye. In an allergic reaction, your body’s immune system misreads a harmless substance as harmful. As a result you can have symptoms that vary widely in severity. For example, you could get hives, nausea, fainting or swelling.
  • Risks related to radiation exposure depend upon how many X-ray exams and treatments you’ve had over time.

There is risk with every treatment or procedure. Ask your healthcare provider how these risks apply to you. Be sure to discuss any other questions or concerns that you may have.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2013-04-03
Last reviewed: 2013-04-01
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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