Hepatobiliary Scan (HIDA)

A HIDA scan is used to demonstrate gallbladder function, diagnose cholecystitis, look for biliary obstruction, and visualize abnormal biliary leakage.

What To Expect

A HIDA scan usually takes about 1-1/2 to 2 hours. The technologist will set up an intravenous line and use it to inject a tracer imaging material, after which the scan will begin immediately. During the scan, you will be asked to lie as still as possible to ensure good imaging results. We will make you as comfortable as possible using extra pillows, a support cushion for your knees, and a warm blanket.

After about one hour your gallbladder will have had time to absorb a sufficient amount of the imaging material, and you will then be given a drug called Sincalide through your intravenous line. This will send a signal to your gallbladder to contract and empty, which is what normally happens after you eat. After eating, your body releases an enzyme similar to the Sincalide that triggers your gallbladder to squeeze down and empty the bile into your intestine to help break down fats and digest your food. A diseased gallbladder will not empty well.

Sometimes, but not always, the Sincalide injection can cause some nausea and cramping. Reactions are usually mild and stop quickly after the injection is completed.

After the Sincalide injection, imaging continues for another 30 minutes. During this time, measurements of the radioactive tracer material in the gallbladder will determine how well your gallbladder has emptied.

Sometimes it takes imaging material longer to go from the liver into the gallbladder. In such cases it may take up to four hours to complete the study.

If your gallbladder has been surgically removed, you will not receive the Sincalide injection. For people without a gallbladder a HIDA scan is done to display liver and ductal clearance of the bile and to check for bile leaks.

After your exam is complete, a radiologist will review your images, prepare a written report, and discuss the results with your doctor. Your doctor will then explain the test results to you and discuss whether further procedures may be needed.

A few things you need to know:

  • It is very important to remain still while you are being imaged, as movement may blur or distort your images.
  • There is no need to worry about the amount of radiation you will receive during the test. It is no more that what you would receive from similar x-ray procedures.
  • Be sure to tell your doctor if you are pregnant, think you may be pregnant, or are a nursing mother.
  • Although adverse side effects are rare, you should tell the technologist if you feel lightheaded, nauseated, or if you have other symptoms during the exam.
  • The radioactive tracer will remain in your body for a short time and is cleared out through natural bodily functions. Drinking plenty of fluids before the exam and after the tracer injection helps eliminate the material more quickly.

After the test you should be able to resume your normal daily activities immediately.

Patient Preparation

  • Do not eat or drink anything 6 hours before the exam. (Do not fast over 12 hours).
  • Do not take any prescription pain medications 6 hours prior to your exam.