HIDA scan

A hepatobiliary (HIDA) scan is an imaging procedure used to diagnose problems in the liver, gallbladder and bile ducts.

In the HIDA scan, a radioactive chemical or tracer is injected into a vein in your arm.

The tracer is handled by the liver like bile. Bile is a fluid produced and excreted by your liver that helps your digestive system break down fats in the foods you eat. Bile is stored in your gallbladder and the gallbladder releases the bile when you eat a meal.

A special nuclear medicine scanner (gamma camera) tracks the flow of the tracer from your liver into your gallbladder and small intestine.

The name HIDA comes from an early tracer used for the scan, hydroxy iminodiacetic acid. More effective tracers are used today.

Cholescintigraphy, hepatobiliary scintigraphy are other names for a HIDA scan.


Why it's done Risks How you prepare What you can expect Results

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 images liver function, which complements images of body structure (anatomy) provided by X-ray and ultrasound.

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

Your doctor may use a HIDA scan as part of a test to measure the rate at which bile is released from your gallbladder (gallbladder ejection fraction).

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