A hepatobiliary, or HIDA, scan uses imaging technology to find problems in a patient's gallbladder, according to Mayo Clinic. It does this through use of a radioactive tracer.
The tracer is taken up by the liver much like bile, Mayo Clinic explains. Because of this, the medical team is able to see how it moves through a patient's gallbladder through use of a gamma camera. The gallbladder stores bile naturally.
The medical team positions the patient on a table and injects the tracer into the arm, reports Mayo Clinic. Then they watch as the tracer moves through the liver, gallbladder and bile ducts into the patient's small intestine. All the while, the gamma camera takes pictures of the tracer as it moves.
The procedure takes about an hour, though it can take longer if the images aren't clear or if the patient was given morphine or cholecystokinin, or CCK, which is a drug that makes the gallbladder contract, Cooper University Health Care advises. Following the procedure, a nuclear radiologist sends the scans to the doctor, who then consults with the patient.
There is no downtime for a HIDA scan, and the patient is able to leave the hospital or clinic shortly after it's over, according to Mayo Clinic. The radioactive tracer passes out of the body after about a day or two.