A gallbladder scan, also called a hepatobiliary test, is a test physicians perform to diagnose liver, gallbladder, and bile ducts. The gallbladder is a small organ in the top corner of the stomach. It stores bile the liver makes and uses to aid in digestion. If it stops functioning properly, the bile fails to flow out of the gallbladder and gallstones can form.
Why a Patient My Need a Gallbladder Test
A patient may need a gallbladder test if they suffer from gallstones or gallbladder attacks. Gallbladder attacks range from mild or severe. They may last for a few hours or a few days. Some people seek medical attention for gallbladder attacks. The test can help physicians determine if there is a problem in the gallbladder. It can find:
Preparing for a Gallbladder Test
Before a doctor performs the test, he may ask the patient to prepare for it but fasting for 12 hours. While fasting, it is okay to drink clear liquids. The doctor may also ask the patient to stop taking certain medications. In some cases, the doctor may prescribe medication to help make the test results easier to read.
During The Procedure
During the test, the patient will lie on a table. A technician will insert an IV that releases a radioactive chemical into the body through a vein in the patient’s arm. Many patients report a cold feeling as the chemical goes through their veins.
The chemical will trace the path that bile takes through the body. The technician will use a camera to trace the path and take photos along the way. The procedure can take between one and four hours to complete. During the procedure, the patient must remain still so the pictures do not show up blurry.
Doctors sometimes give Morphine to patients to ensure that they stay perfectly still. Some patients even fall asleep during the procedure. The procedure is an outpatient procedure so the patient can go home as soon as it is over. The chemical will come out of the body in the urine and the bowel movements.
Since the procedure is non-invasive, there is no recovery time. Patients may feel drowsy if they receive medication during the procedure and should rest until the medication wears off. Patients should also drink plenty of water to help flush out the radioactive chemical the doctor uses during the procedure.
The test results are often available the same day the procedure is complete. If the test results come back as normal, the gallbladder is functioning properly. If the test comes back as abnormal, it means there is a problem. Some common reasons for an abnormal result include,
- Bile duct blockage
- Abnormal growth
Doctors will likely order more tests to determine the exact problem and make a proper diagnosis. Gallbladder surgery may be necessary if the gallbladder is not working properly.