How Does a HIDA Scan Work to Diagnose Gallbladder Problems?


Quick Answer

A hepatobiliary iminodiacetic acid, or HIDA, scan diagnoses gallbladder problems by using a gamma ray scanner to detect gamma rays in the body and produce pictures of the gallbladder, bile ducts and liver, explains Healthgrades. A radioactive substance called a tracer allows the body to emit gamma rays.

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Full Answer

During a HIDA scan, a nurse starts an intravenous line and injects a person with a tracer, which goes through the veins, reaches the gallbladder and other organs, and emits gamma rays, states Healthgrades. The individual lies down on a table below a gamma ray scanner, which is capable of producing real-time images of the gallbladder, bile ducts and liver. The machine reveals the speed of bile movement and displays problems, such as blockages.

A gamma ray scanner takes photos every five to 10 minutes, and a gallbladder scan takes up to two hours, notes Healthgrades. If the pictures are not detailed enough, a person may receive a morphine injection to help the tracer move into the gallbladder. Doctors also sometimes recommend drinking a high-fat beverage to help the gallbladder contract and empty itself.

A gallbladder scan enables doctors to determine if the gallbladder is working properly and if there are blockages or bile duct infections, particularly from gallstones, according to Healthgrades. Doctors suggest the scan to people with jaundice or those with upper-right stomach pain.

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