A HIDA scan is an imaging test. It helps to diagnose problems of the gallbladder and liver.
Bile is a fluid that is made in the liver. It is stored in the bile duct. This fluid helps your body digest certain foods. If there is a problem with the production or flow of bile, a HIDA scan may find the problem.
Gallbladder, Liver, and Stomach
Reasons for Test
This test is done to:
- Find the cause of jaundice (yellowish skin and eyes) or pain in the abdomen
- Diagnose suspected gallbladder disorders, like inflammation, perforation, stones , or other blockages
- Check bile flow after surgery
This test is not done on women who are pregnant.
Complications are rare. Some may have an allergic reaction to tracers used in the scan. Talk to your doctor about any allergies you have.
What to Expect
Prior to Test
- Make sure you let the doctor know what medications you are taking. Some medications may need to be stopped or adjusted before the test. Your doctor may also suggest starting a new medication.
- You will fast for 4-6 hours before the scan.
Your doctor will ask about your medical history. A physical exam will be done. Before the procedure, you will need to:
- Remove all jewelry and other metallic objects.
- Change into a gown.
- Use the bathroom before the test.
Description of Test
You will lie on your back. It is important to lie still during the entire test. Taking deep breaths or focusing on other things may help. The doctor will inject a tracer drug into an IV. Children and some adults may also be given a sedative to keep calm. A special camera will track the path of the tracer drug as it goes through your liver, gallbladder, and biliary ducts. The camera will take pictures by scanning your abdomen. It will pass back and forth about every 5-10 minutes for one hour. In some cases, more pictures may be needed 2, 4, or 24 hours later.
Some people may need to be given morphine to create spasms and get a better view of the gallbladder. A fatty meal may also be given to check the digestive process in the intestines near the gallbladder and liver.
- Most people can resume normal activity, diet, and medications after the test.
- Drinking additional fluids for 2 days will remove the tracer drug from your body. It is usually cleared within 6-24 hours.
- Always flush the toilet twice and wash your hands thoroughly for a few days following the test.
- Keep the injection site clean, dry, and protected. Look for signs of infection.
How Long Will It Take?
Will It Hurt?
You may feel mild discomfort during the injection, and it may be challenging to stay still for a long time. The imaging does not cause pain.
The doctor is looking for the tracer drug, or darkened areas, on the monitor. A normal result is when the tracer drug, which contains a dye, moves freely through the system. A problem, like a blockage, leak, or inflammation may be present if the tracer drug moves slowly through the system, does not show on the monitor, or is seen in other areas. The doctor may discuss the results of your scan with you.
Call Your Doctor
It is important to monitor your recovery. Alert your doctor to any problems. If any of the following occur, call your doctor:
- Signs of infection, including fever and chills
- Redness, swelling, increasing pain, a lot of bleeding, or any discharge from the injection site
- Joint pain, fatigue, stiffness, rash, other new symptoms, or allergic reactions
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians https://www.familydoctor.org
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases https://www.niddk.nih.gov
Canadian Association of Gastroenterology https://www.cag-acg.org
Canadian Digestive Health Foundation http://www.cdhf.ca
Gallbladder scan. Johns Hopkins Medicine website. Available at: http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/healthlibrary/test%5Fprocedures/gastroenterology/gallbladder%5Fscan%5F92,P07694. Accessed October 3, 2017.
Hepatobiliary scan (HIDA scan). UW Medicine website. Available at: http://www.uwmedicine.org/health-library/pages/hepatobiliary-scan-hida-scan.aspx. Accessed October 3, 2017.
- Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Daus Mahnke, MD
- Review Date: 09/2018
- Update Date: 09/30/2014