Everything You Need To Be Aware Of When Needing A HIDA Scan

January 25, 2024
Everything You Need To Be Aware Of When Needing A HIDA Scan

The cause of abdominal pain can often be hard to determine as it is a common fatty liver symptomIBS symptom, and gastritis symptom. However, in rare cases, it can be a clear indication of something more severe, such as pancreas cancer symptoms.


Needless to say, if you are experiencing abdominal pain and the suspected cause is due to an issue with your bile ducts or gallbladder, your doctor or gastroenterologist might recommend you get a HIDA scan, also known as the hepatobiliary iminodiacetic acid scan.


What is a HIDA scan?

A HIDA scan is an imaging test that is used to assess and diagnose disorders in your biliary system, such as your bile ducts, gallbladder, and liver. The process is sometimes known as hepatobiliary scintigraphy or cholescintigraphy. It involves injecting a small amount of radioactive tracer into one of the arm’s veins.


The tracer travels to the liver through the bloodstream, where the cells that produce bile take it to the bile ducts and the gallbladder. Using a nuclear medicine scanner known as the gamma camera, your doctor will be able to track the tracer’s flow to the associated organs, generating computer images that will then help to understand the cause of your abdominal pain.


Why a HIDA scan might be conducted?

A HIDA scan is often conducted to assess the state of the gallbladder. It is also conducted to assess the flow of bile into the small intestine from the liver as well as the liver’s bile-excreting function.


A HIDA scan is often conducted alongside an ultrasound and X-ray to help diagnose several conditions and diseases, such as:


  • Cholecystitis, which is a sudden inflammation of the gallbladder


  • Bile duct obstruction


  • Assessment of postoperative complications, such as fistulas and bile leaks


  • Congenital issues of the bile ducts, such as biliary atresia


  • Evaluate liver function


  • Liver transplant assessment


Your doctor might also conduct a HIDA scan as part of a diagnostic test to measure how effective your gallbladder is in producing and releasing bile, also known as the gallbladder ejection fraction process.


What are some possible risks involved?

The possible side effects and risks associated with HIDA scans are minor and few. They include:


  • Tiny exposure to radiation


  • Bruising at the injection site


  • Allergic reaction to the radioactive tracers


The thing about exposure to radiation is that it is insignificant to your body. You will excrete the tracer through your stool and urine in about two days after the procedure is conducted.


How do you prepare for an HIDA scan, and what can you expect?

You will need to fast for at least four hours before the procedure. You might only be allowed to consume clear liquids, such as water. Any morphine-related medications must not be consumed as they can affect the biliary system and gallbladder, rendering the HIDA scan wrong.


During the test, you will lie on the examination table, usually on your back, and the radioactive tracer will be injected into one of your arms. You might experience a cold sensation and a slight pressure in the process.


During the process, you will also receive an IV injection of sincalide, a medication that will make your gallbladder contract and empty. The radiologist will track the radioactive tracer using a gamma camera, during which it will translate to images on a computer. This entire process might take up to an hour. You might require more scans within a 24-hour period if the original images are not acceptable.


After the process is completed, most can resume their daily activities. All you need to do is to consume lots of water so that the radioactive tracer is flushed out of your system.


What might the HIDA scan show?

In order to diagnose the cause of your abdominal pain, your doctor or gastroenterologist will have to consider any associated symptoms as well as other test results on top of your HIDA scan. However, with the HIDA scan, it might show:


  • Typical: This indicates that there is no issue with your biliary system.


  • No radioactive tracer seen in the gallbladder: This might indicate the presence of an acute inflammation, such as acute cholecystitis.


  • Radioactive tracer detected in other areas: This might indicate a leak in your biliary system.


  • Slow movement of radioactive tracer: This indicates an obstruction or blockage in your biliary system or even a liver function disorder.


  • Low gallbladder ejection fraction: This might indicate the presence of a chronic inflammation, such as chronic cholecystitis.



Do not take abdominal pain lightly. Because they are such a common symptom among many gut-related conditions, it is vital to conduct a gastroenterology checkup with GUTCARE if you are unsure of the cause of your pain, especially if you experience some of these symptoms:


  • Jaundice


  • Severe, steady pain in the upper right abdominal region


  • Bloating


  • Vomiting and nausea


  • Fever


  • Unexplained weight loss


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