HIDA scan

Biliary Drainage Study (HIDA)

A biliary drainage study, sometimes known as cholescintigraphy, hepatobiliaryscintigraphy or HIDA scan, is an imaging procedure used to diagnose problems in the liver, gallbladder and bile ducts.

In the HIDA scan, a radiopharmaceutical or tracer is injected into a vein and is handled by the liver like bile. The gamma camera allows us to image the drainage of bile into the bile ducts and the gallbladder. The emptying of the gallbladder following stimulation can be quantified, and is an extremely sensitive test for cholecystitis.

By evaluating the drainage of bile into the common bile duct and duodenum, we can diagnose functional diseases of the Sphincter of Oddi.

HIDA scans for abdominal pain to assess gallbladder function – £1140

HIDA scans are used to diagnose cholecystitis, sphincter of Oddi dysfunction or bile leaks post-cholecystectomy.

The test can also be performed in post-cholecystectomy patients to evaluate patients with post-cholecystectomy pain syndrome or to identify a bile leak after surgery.

HIDA scan preparation

What is a nuclear medicine HIDA scan?

HIDA stands for ‘Hepatic Iminodiacetic Acid’ and is a radiopharmaceutical that, when injected into the veins, travels to the liver and drains into the bile and gallbladder. Bile is a fluid produced by your liver that helps your digestive system break down fats in the foods you eat.

Your doctor may order a HIDA scan to see the flow of bile from your liver to your small intestine, and also to investigate your gallbladder. This may help in the diagnosis of several conditions, such as:

  • Bile duct obstruction
  • Bile leakage
  • Congenital abnormalities in the bile ducts
  • Gallbladder inflammation (cholecystitis)
  • Gallstones

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

Are there are any risks?

As the gamma rays are like X-rays, there are small risks associated with being exposed to radiation. However, the radiation decays away over a few hours and the amount of radiation used in medical imaging is very low. This is comparable to the natural radiation we all receive from the environment over about one year.  In fact, the risks from missing a disorder by not having the study may be greater than the risks of the radiation. If you are concerned about the risks of the radiation, please speak to a member of our team.

Is there any special preparation for the scan?

You will need to fast for 6 hours before the scan.

When you make your appointment, you will be asked what medication you are currently taking, and we may ask you to stop certain medicines before the scan.

If you are pregnant or breastfeeding

If you are pregnant, or think you may be pregnant, you mustinform the department before attending, and certainly before the radiopharmaceutical is administered.

If you are breastfeeding, please inform the department before attending and you will be advised as to whether you will need to take any precautions. You may be advised to avoid breastfeeding for a few hours afterwards and you may need to express milk before your scan.

Can you bring a relative/friend?

Yes you can, but for reasons of safety, they may not be able to accompany you into the examination room, except in very special circumstances. Please do not bring children with you as they will potentially be exposed to radiation from other patients.

Arriving for your appointment

When you arrive for your appointment, please go to the reception desk, after which you will be shown where to wait until collected by a technologist.

The technologist will explain the procedure, and you can ask any questions. You may be asked some questions about your health, or whether you have had this examination before. You do not need to undress but you should remove any jewellery and metallic objects such as keys, coins or buckles.

What happens during the scan?

You will be taken to the examination room and made comfortable lying down on the examination couch. The technologist will give you an injection of the radiopharmaceutical into a vein in the arm.

The technologist will position the gamma camera over your abdomen, and it will remain still, continuously taking pictures of your liver, gallbladder and bile ducts. The scan typically lasts 90 minutes, and it is important that you lie still during this scan.

At between 30 and 60 mins, you will be given a sugary drink to swallow which will stimulate your gallbladder to empty.

Will it be uncomfortable?

No. Apart from the injection, you will not feel anything.

How long will it take?

The scan lasts up to 90 minutes, but occasionally your technologist may need to take further delayed pictures if the bile is draining very slowly.

Can I listen to music or watch a movie while I have my scan?

Your technologist will ask you whether you would like to listen to music or watch a movie during your scan. You may bring in a CD or DVD, or select music from our selection.

Are there any after-effects?

The radiopharmaceutical causes no side-effects, nor will you feel drowsy. You can drive home afterwards and go about your normal activities.

In addition to mothers who are breastfeeding, parents with young children should notify the technologist, who will explain that it is advisable not to have prolonged close contact with them for the rest of the day. This is to avoid them being exposed to unnecessary radiation.

When will you get the results?

The scan will be examined after your visit and a written report on the findings will be sent to your referring doctor within 7 days.

Please remember

The radiopharmaceutical required for this examination is ordered especially for you. If you cannot attend your appointment, please let the department know as soon as possible, so that we can use it for someone else.

We hope that this leaflet has answered your questions, but remember that this is only a starting point for discussion about your treatment with the doctors looking after you. Make sure you are satisfied that you have received enough information about the procedure.


Trinity Medical Imaging