HIDA scan stands for hepatic iminodiacetic acid scan (also known as cholescintigraphy) and is an imaging scan used to detect problems with several of your internal organs. If you have intense stomach pain, there’s a chance that you could use a HIDA scan. This article will detail what a HIDA scan is, whether or not you need one, and what to expect if you get one.

What is a HIDA Scan?

A HIDA scan is an imaging study to check your gallbladder and bile ducts. This is typically performed in patients with abdominal pain, jaundice, or after certain types of surgery. During this scan, a radioactive tracer is injected into the vein of one of your arms. The tracer then flows through your body via the bloodstream and goes to your liver and into your gallbladder, and then the small intestine.

Once the tracer is injected, a special camera known as a nuclear medicine scanner, or gamma camera, traces the radioactive material as it goes through your system. It can see any issues or blockages within your gallbladder or bile ducts.

What does a HIDA scan check for?

Here are some of the diseases and conditions a HIDA scan can detect:

  • Leakage of bile from the bile ducts, which can be seen after gallbladder surgery, liver transplant, or trauma
  • Acute inflammation of the gallbladder (acute cholecystitis)
  • Chronic inflammation of the gallbladder (chronic cholecystitis)
  • Blockages in the bile ducts
  • Any bile defect that you were born with, such as biliary atresia

What to expect during a HIDA scan

While it might sound complicated, A HIDA scan is a fairly straightforward procedure. It’s administered in the radiology department of a hospital and takes roughly one hour to complete. Typically, you’ll lie on your back while the radioactive tracer is injected into your body. Depending on the state of your gallbladder, you may receive additional drugs to help better visualize it.

Once the doctor is satisfied with the images and the procedure is finished, you’re usually free to go about your day as usual. The tracer will make its way out of your body through urine and stool, and you can speed this up by drinking plenty of water.

Risks of a HIDA scan

Generally speaking, risks associated with HIDA scans are rare but include:

  • Injection site pain or bruising
  • Small amount of radiation exposure
  • Allergic reaction to the radiotracer

The information on this website is provided for educational and information purposes only and is not medical advice. Always consult with a licensed medical provider and follow their recommendations regardless of what you read on this website. If you think you are having a medical emergency, dial 911 or go to the nearest emergency room. Links to other third-party websites are provided for your convenience only. If you decide to access any of the third-party websites, you do so entirely at your own risk and subject to the terms of use for those websites. Neither Arnon Lambroza, M.D., P.C., nor any contributor to this website, makes any representation, express or implied, regarding the information provided on this website or any information you may access on a third-party website using a link. Use of this website does not establish a doctor-patient relationship. If you would like to request an appointment with a health care provider, please call our office at 212-517-7570.

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