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A HIDA scan is a test that uses a special fluid (marker) that shows up on a scan. The test is done to check the function of your child’s liver, gallbladder, and bile ducts. The test takes about 2 hours. The scan portion of the test may be done more than once over a period of 24 hours.
For best results and your child’s safety, tell the technologist (the professional who does the scan) if your child:
Has any allergies or a history of severe allergic reactions.
Has any health problems.
Takes any prescribed medications or over-the-counter medications, herbs, or supplements.
Has ever had surgery.
Your child shouldn’t eat or drink anything for 6 hours before the scan. Unless told otherwise, your child can take any daily medications with a sip of water.
Your child may be given medication that makes her relaxed and sleepy during the test. During the HIDA scan:
The child lies on her back on a table. The marker fluid is put into the child’s vein by an injection or IV (intravenous) line.
The marker travels to the liver and through bile ducts to the gallbladder. A scan is done to follow the marker’s path.
If the child has been having symptoms, such as upset stomach or cramping, these may occur during the scan. This is normal. The symptoms will go away when the scan is over.
The doctor may inject a hormone called cholecystokinin (CCK) during the scan. This is a hormone that is secreted after you eat a fatty meal. It causes the gallbladder to contract, so bile flows into the duodenum (first part of the small intestine). If the child has symptoms after the hormone is injected, this may help the doctor understand the cause of previous symptoms. In certain cases, the child may eat a high-fat meal during the test instead of getting CCK.
When the scan is finished, your child is taken to a recovery room. Here, he or she is watched while recovering from the test.
If a sedative is used, it may take a couple of hours for it to wear off.
For certain conditions, the scan may be repeated several times over a 24-hour period. In this case, your child may stay in the hospital overnight. Your child’s healthcare team can tell you more if this is true for your child.
The results of the scan will be ready in a few days. Your child’s healthcare team will discuss them with you then.
You can help your child by preparing him or her in advance:
Explain the test to your child in brief, simple terms. Younger children have shorter attention spans, so do this soon before the test. Tell older children about the test further in advance, to give them more time to prepare.
Tell your child that a HIDA scan involves people looking at and touching their belly.
Describe how the test will feel as best you can. A doctor or nurse can help. Allow your child to ask questions.
Use play when helpful. This can involve role-playing with a child’s favorite toy or object. Older children may want to see pictures that show what happens during the test.
After the scan, call the doctor if your child has any signs of a reaction to the marker (such as pain or a rash). A reaction is unlikely, but if it happens it can be serious.