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Hepatobiliary Imaging

(Also called a HIDA or PIPIDA Scan)

Patient Preparation

The patient must have nothing to eat or drink for at least 4 hours prior to the test. Recent meals, as well as prolonged fasting (>24 hours) may result in false-positive results. Opiate medications (such as morphine, Demerol, and codeine) may also result in false-positive results. Patient should not have had any recent barium studies.

Exam Procedure

After the radioactive tracer injection (into a vein in the arm), the patient lies on their back on the imaging table and continuous images of the abdominal area are taken for one hour. For most patients, hepatobiliary imaging also includes pharmacologic intervention with a drug called cholecystokinin (CCK) to assess gallbladder contractility. This is performed after the intial 60 minutes of imaging and adds an additional 30 minutes.

A gallbladder scan is done to:

  • Help determine the cause of pain in the upper right side of the abdomen.
  • Evaluate the function of the gallbladder. A gallbladder ultrasound may be done before a gallbladder scan to help find structural problems in the gallbladder. If the ultrasound is normal, a gallbladder scan often is done to evaluate gallbladder function.
  • Help determine the cause of jaundice. 
  • Find blockage of the tubes (bile ducts) leading from the liver to the gallbladder and small intestine (duodenum).
  • Look for leakage of bile after surgery or an injury.


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