Overview: The Basics
A hepatobiliary (HIDA) scan is an imaging procedure used to diagnose problems in the liver, gallbladder and bile ducts. HIDA scans are also sometimes called cholescintigraphy and hepatobiliary scintigraphy.
A HIDA scan involves injecting a radioactive chemical called a tracer into your arm through an intravenous (IV). The tracer mimics how bile works in your liver. Once the tracer is injected, a special medical scanner called a gamma camera tracks the flow of the tracer from your liver into your gallbladder and small intestine.
What to Expect: During the procedure
Prior to the HIDA scan, you will be asked to change into a gown. You will be laid on an exam table. The radioactive tracer is then injected into a vein in your arm. You may feel some pressure while the radioactive tracer is injected into your vein.
You will be asked to remain still as the tracer travels through your bloodstream to your liver, where it’s taken up by the bile-producing cells. Then, the tracer travels with the bile from your liver into your gallbladder and through your bile ducts into your small intestine.
A special gamma camera is positioned over your abdomen taking pictures of the tracer as it moves through your body. The gamma camera takes pictures continually for about an hour.
What can be found?
A HIDA scan may help in the diagnosis of several diseases and conditions, such as:
- Gallbladder inflammation (cholecystitis)
- Bile duct obstruction
- Congenital abnormalities in the bile ducts, such as biliary atresia
- Postoperative complications, such as bile leaks and fistulas
- Assessment of liver transplant
What happens afterwards?
You may resume your normal daily activities following your HIDA scan. It’s not uncommon to have some of the tracer in your body following the scan, but it will be passed through your body in 1 to 2 days.
How to Prepare
To prepare for your HIDA scan, your doctor may ask you to fast up to eight hours prior to the scan. You should not fast any longer than the time period specified by your doctor. Make sure to tell your doctor which medications you regularly take, or if you have any known allergies to contrast dyes.
You may receive an infusion or injection of a medication in addition to the injected radioactive tracer. The medications may be injected immediately before or during your HIDA scan.