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What is a gallbladder scan?

Gallbladder Scan

A gallbladder scan, also known as a HIDA (hepatobiliary iminodiacetic acid) scan, is a procedure that uses a radioactive substance to take pictures of your gallbladder, liver, and bile ducts. A gallbladder scan shows how well your gallbladder is working and diagnoses blockages and infections of the bile ducts, most commonly from gallstones. Your doctor may order a gallbladder scan if you have upper right-side abdominal pain or jaundice (yellowing of the skin). 

Your liver produces bile to help digest food. Bile travels through bile ducts to the gallbladder for storage. During digestion, bile moves through the bile duct into the small intestine. Sometimes a gallstone can block a bile duct, causing irritation, pain, and swelling of the gallbladder (cholecystitis). This can also lead to a gallbladder infection. These problems can cause abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, fever, and jaundice.

A gallbladder scan is also called a hepatobiliary iminodiacetic acid scan (HIDA scan), gallbladder radionuclide scan, hepatobiliary scan, cholescintigraphy, or hepatobiliary scintigraphy.

A gallbladder scan is only one method used to diagnose conditions of the gallbladder, liver and bile ducts. Discuss all of your testing options with your doctor to understand which options are right for you.  

Medical Reviewers: Daphne E. Hemmings, MD, MPH Last Review Date: Jul 12, 2013

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Medical References

Gallbladder Scan. Cigna. http://www.cigna.com/individualandfamilies/health-and-well-being/hw/medical-tests/gallbladder-scan-hw215119.html. Accessed May 5, 2013.
Gallbladder Scan. Johns Hopkins Medicine. http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/healthlibrary/test_procedures/gastroenterology/gallbladder_scan_92,P07694/. Accessed May 5, 2013.
Hepatobiliary Scan (HIDA Scan). University of Washington. http://uwmedicine.washington.edu/Patient-Care/Our-Services/Medical-Services/Radiology-Imaging-Services/Pages/ArticleView.aspx?subId=275. Accessed May 5, 2013.
Patient Safety: Radiation Dose in X-ray and CT Examinations. RadiologyInfo.org. http://www.radiologyinfo.org/en/safety/index.cfm?pg=sfty_xray. Accessed May 5, 2013.

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