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Examining the liver, gallbladder, and bile ducts

Call (512) 453-6100 to to schedule your exam

The hepatobiliary iminodiacetic acid or HIDA scan is used to detect problems of the liver, gallbladder, and bile ducts. In a HIDA scan, a small amount of radiopharmaceutical is given to you through a vein in your arm. This radiopharmaceutical travels through your bloodstream, and is taken up by your liver. It is then secreted into the bile ducts, where it either passes into the intestine, or is stored by the gallbladder. The exam either ends at that point, or your provider may also order an assessment of gallbladder contraction, for which an additional compound is infused. A specialized scanner is used to record the progress of the radiopharmaceutical, and is used to assess gallbladder contraction.

  • Gallbladder inflammation (cholecystitis)
  • Chronic gallbladder dysfunction
  • Bile duct blockage (due to gallstones, tumors, or after surgery)
  • Congenital bile duct abnormality (present since birth)
  • Complications after liver or GI surgery (bile leaks, blockages, and fistulas which are abnormal connections within the digestive system)
  • Liver transplant assessment (to determine how well a transplanted liver is functioning)
  • The procedure takes about one to four hours to complete, depending on the scans needed.
  • You will be asked to remove jewelry or other metal objects and change into a gown for the exam.
  • You will be helped onto an examination table where you will lay flat on your back for the exam.
  • Your paramedic or technologist will insert a catheter (tiny tube) into a small vein in your arm. The radiopharmaceutical will be injected through the catheter. Additional compounds such morphine may be injected to help visualize the gallbladder.
  • A specialized scanner will be used to take images of your abdominal area while the radiopharmaceutical moves from your liver into your gallbladder and intestine.
  • After the procedure, you can return to your normal activities. The radiopharmaceutical is eliminated in your stool.
  • You will be asked to fast for 6 hours prior to the exam, including water and clear liquids. You may be allowed to have small sips of water to take specific medications that are allowed before the HIDA scan—please discuss this with your ARA scheduler and your health care provider. Be sure and let your scheduler and health care provider know about all your current medications. You will not be allowed to take narcotic pain medications for at least 6 hours before the scan.
  • Be sure to tell the technologist about any illness or allergies you may have.
  • Tell the technologist if you might be pregnant or are breastfeeding. There may be an alternate exam to avoid any risk to the developing baby.

To schedule a HIDA scan, please call our scheduling team at (512) 453-6100 or toll free at (800) 998-8214. A provider referral is required to make an appointment.

A radiologist who is trained to interpret Molecular Radiology examinations will analyze the images and send a report to the provider who referred you to ARA. The provider will then share the results with you.

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