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A HIDA scan is an imaging test. It can be used to check for problems in the liver, gallbladder, and bile ducts. During the test, a small amount of radioactive substance (tracer) is injected into a vein in your arm or hand. Pictures are then taken to track the movement of the tracer. The test takes about 2 hours. In some cases, more pictures may need to be taken after a wait of 4 hours. You’ll be told in advance how long your test will take.
Tell your doctor what medications you’re taking. This includes vitamins, herbs, and over-the-counter medications. You may need to stop taking some or all of them in the days before the test.
Don’t eat or drink anything 4-6 hours before the test.
Follow any other instructions you’re given to prepare for the test.
Are taking any medications or have allergies to any medications, such as morphine.
Had recent x-rays or tests involving barium.
Had recent surgery.
Have other health problems, such as diabetes.
Are pregnant or might be pregnant.
The test is performed by a nuclear medicine or radiology technologist. It can be done in a hospital or test center.
You’ll lie on your back on a table. A special camera (also called a scanner) will be positioned above your abdomen.
An IV line is placed into a vein in your arm or hand. The tracer is then injected through the IV line.
Pictures are taken as the tracer follows the movement of bile through the liver, gallbladder, and bile ducts, and duodenum (first part of the small intestine). Bile is a substance made by the liver that helps with fat digestion.
You’ll need to lie still to help ensure that the pictures are not blurry.
During the test, a hormone called cholecystokinin (CCK) may be injected through the IV line. This hormone causes the gallbladder to contract and release bile. CCK can cause side effects, such as nausea and stomach cramping. These side effects should go away after a few minutes. Be sure to let the technologist know if you continue to feel discomfort.
In some cases, pain medication called morphine is injected through the IV line. Morphine helps move the tracer into the gallbladder.
If needed, more pictures will be taken after 4 hours.
The technologist will let you know when the test is completed.
If you were given morphine, have a family friend or member drive you home. The morphine can make you more tired than usual. Rest for as long as needed before you return to your normal routine.
The tracer will pass out of the body in your stool and urine within 24 hours. Drink plenty of fluids to help the tracer pass.
Your doctor will go over test results with you when they are ready. This is likely within a few days of the test.
These can include:
Problems at the IV site
Allergic reaction to the tracer or medication used during the test
Radiation exposure from the tracer