A hepatobiliary (HIDA) scan is an imaging procedure used to diagnose problems of the liver, gallbladder and bile ducts.
A HIDA scan is most often done to evaluate your gallbladder. It's also used to look at the bile-excreting function of your liver and to track the flow of bile from your liver into your small intestine. A HIDA scan is often used with X-ray and ultrasound.

For a HIDA scan, also known as cholescintigraphy and hepatobiliary scintigraphy, a radioactive tracer is injected into a vein in your arm. The tracer travels through your bloodstream to your liver, where the bile-producing cells take it up. The tracer then travels with the bile into your gallbladder and through your bile ducts to your small intestine. A nuclear medicine scanner (gamma camera) tracks the flow of the tracer from your liver into your gallbladder and small intestine and creates computer images.

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If you’ve never had an HIDA scan you might not know what to expect and this brief guide is designed to answer the questions that might be in your mind.

  • It’s important that you tell us before the scan if you:
  • are (or might be) pregnant or breastfeeding
  • have had an ultrasound within the previous six months
  • are taking some medications and supplements.
  • Fast for four hours prior to your HIDA scan. Your doctor may allow you to drink clear liquids.
  • No narcotics for 12 hours before the scan.
  • Please confirm your appointment by phone 24 hours before your scan and arrive in plenty of time.
  • Recommended to wear comfortable, easy-to-remove clothing.
  • You’re welcome to bring a friend or a relative with you, but for safety reasons, we don't normally allow them into the examination room.
  • Don’t forget to bring your appointment letter with you.
  • Once you have checked in at reception, a member of the radiography team will meet you, explain the procedure, go through your safety questionnaire with you and ask you to sign a consent form.
  • You will have the opportunity to ask any questions.
  • We might ask you to change into an examination gown.
  • Place a temporary intravenous line, or IV set up.
  • Throughout the procedure, you will be looked after by the radiography team. They will explain what’s happening and will be there if you experience any discomfort.
  • The examination should take from 90 minutes to 4 hours.
  • The technologist operating the equipment will be able to see and hear you throughout the procedure.
  • Your technician will position you on a table, usually on your back, and inject the radioactive tracer into a vein in your arm.
  • The technician may also inject a type of pain medicine called morphine through your IV line.
  • For safety reasons, we won’t normally allow anyone accompanying you to come into the examination room whilst you are having your procedure.
  • There are no restrictions on a normal activity you can eat and drink normally, drive and return to work immediately after the scan.
  • The small amount of radioactive tracer will lose its reactivity or pass through your urine and stool over the next day or two.
  • Drink plenty of water to help flush it out of your system.
  • A radiologist will examine the images shortly after your visit and send a report to your doctor or consultant, normally within a few days.
  • For ethical and professional reasons, we cannot discuss results with you. Only your doctor or consultant can do this.