Hepatobiliary scans to diagnose your gallbladder and liver

Diagnostic Care for Your Gallbladder and Liver

A hepatobiliary (HIDA) scan can evaluate how your gallbladder is working. It is also used to look at the function of your liver, while tracking the flow of bile from your liver into your small intestine. 

HIDA scans use radiotracers (radioactive materials) that produce high-resolution images. This type of care is called nuclear medicine. The name HIDA comes from one of the first tracers used for the scan: hydroxyl iminodiacetic acid. 

Because patient care is our top priority, we use equipment and quality control to ensure that we safely produce high-quality images to support your care.

What to Expect During a HIDA Scan

Our nuclear medicine technologists will talk to you in detail about what you can expect before, during and after the procedure. They also will answer any questions you may have.

Before a HIDA Scan

For six hours before your exam, avoid:

  • Eating or drinking
  • Taking pain medications

Be sure to tell your technologist if there is any chance you could be pregnant.

During a HIDA Scan

You may be asked to change into a hospital gown before your HIDA scan. A technologist will position you on a table, lying on your back. We’ll inject the radiotracer into a vein in your arm. 

The radioactive tracer is absorbed in the bile and travels with the bile from your liver into your gallbladder. From there, it travels through your bile ducts to your small intestine.

Once you are comfortable on the bed, the imaging will begin. As you lie on the table, a special camera is positioned over your abdomen taking pictures of the tracer as it moves through your body. The gamma camera will take pictures continuously for about an hour. It is important that you remain still, since movement will damage the quality of the images.

After a HIDA Scan

You may return to your regular activity after the scan is complete. Your doctor should receive your results about 24 to 48 hours after the scan. The doctor will discuss your scan results with you.