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Hepatobiliary Nuclear Medicine Imaging

Last updated Feb. 5, 2019

Myohan

Image of a HIDA scan (Hepatobiliary iminodiacetic acid scan).


Background Information:

What are the other Names for the Procedure?

  • HIDA Scan
  • Nuclear Medicine Hepatobiliary Imaging Scan
  • Nuclear Medicine HIDA Scan

What is Hepatobiliary Nuclear Medicine Imaging Scan radiology procedure? (General Explanation)

  • Hepatobiliary Nuclear Medicine Imaging is used to evaluate gallbladder, liver, and biliary ducts, to make specific diagnosis
  • In general, nuclear medicine detects molecular activity within the body, which helps to identify various diseases, such as cancers, heart diseases, gastrointestinal disorders, neurological disorders, or endocrine diseases
  • Small amounts of radioactive materials are used during this imaging procedure

What part of the Body does the Procedure involve?

The Hepatobiliary Nuclear Medicine Imaging procedure involves the liver, gallbladder, and biliary system ducts.

Why is the Hepatobiliary Nuclear Medicine Imaging Scan radiology procedure Performed?

Hepatobiliary Nuclear Medicine Imaging can be used to diagnose various conditions, such as:

  • Cholecystitis: Sudden inflammation of gallbladder, which usually causes right upper quadrant abdominal pain, after eating fatty foods
  • Biliary atresia: Blockage of duct carrying bile from liver to gallbladder in newborns
  • Other conditions affecting gallbladder, liver, or biliary ducts

What is the Equipment used? (Description of Equipment)

  • Hepatobiliary Nuclear Medicine Imaging uses SPECT (single photon emission computed tomography) and gamma camera for imaging
  • Gamma cameras are able to detect radiation emitted from the patient’s body, after radioactive material is given to the patient
  • It is a box-like machine with examination table built in the middle, which slides in and out of the box
  • SPECT rotates the gamma camera heads to produce 3-dimensional images of the target organ

What are the Recent Advances in the Procedure?

There have been no recent advances in the field of Hepatobiliary Nuclear Medicine Imaging procedure. 

What is the Cost of performing the Hepatobiliary Nuclear Medicine Imaging Scan radiology procedure?

The cost of a Hepatobiliary Nuclear Medicine Imaging procedure depends on a variety of factors, such as the type of your health insurance, annual deductibles, co-pay requirements, out-of-network and in-network of your healthcare providers and healthcare facilities.

In many cases, an estimate may be provided before the procedure. The final amount depends upon the findings during the surgery/procedure and post-operative care that is necessary.

When do you need a Second Opinion, prior to the Procedure?

  • It is normal for a patient to feel uncomfortable and confused with a sudden inflow of information regarding Hepatobiliary Nuclear Medicine Imaging procedure and what needs to be done
  • If the patient needs further reassurance or a second opinion, a physician will almost always assist in recommending another physician
  • Also, if the procedure involves multiple steps or has many alternatives, the patient may take a second opinion to understand and choose the best one. They can also choose to approach another physician independently

What are some Helpful Resources?

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25097073 (accessed on 10/15/2014)

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24982851 (accessed on 10/15/2014)

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25170197 (accessed on 10/15/2014)

Prior to Hepatobiliary Nuclear Medicine Imaging Scan radiology procedure:

How does the Hepatobiliary Nuclear Medicine Imaging Scan radiology procedure work?

  • Hepatobiliary Nuclear Imaging Procedure uses radiotracers, which are injected, swallowed, or inhaled by the patients
  • Once these radiotracers are in the body, they accumulate in the organs and give-off gamma rays, which can be detected by gamma cameras and SPECT
  • After detection of these gamma rays, a computer program is able to create 3-dimensional images of the target organ and can give details about structure and function of the target organs, which helps in the diagnosis

How is the Hepatobiliary Nuclear Medicine Imaging Scan radiology procedure Performed?

The Hepatobiliary Nuclear Medicine Imaging procedure is performed in the following manner:

  • The patient is placed on the examination table
  • In certain procedures, an IV catheter is inserted into the patient’s arm, if needed
  • The patient is given radiotracer through injection, swallowing, or inhalation
  • Patient is asked to remain in a certain specific position and images are taken
  • After the imaging, patient may be given certain medications to empty the gallbladder and additional images are taken as gallbladder is emptying

Where is the Procedure Performed?

The Nuclear Medicine Hepatobiliary Imaging Scan is performed as an outpatient procedure, at a hospital.

Who Performs the Procedure?

A radiology technologist, who is trained in Nuclear Medicine Hepatobiliary Imaging Scan procedure, performs the procedure under the supervision of a radiologist.

How long will the Procedure take?

The Hepatobiliary Nuclear Medicine Imaging procedure takes between 1-4 hours to perform. The time for the procedure depends on the diagnosis and the type of procedure being performed.

Who interprets the Result?

The radiologist interprets the results of the Hepatobiliary Nuclear Medicine Imaging procedure.

What Preparations are needed, prior to the Procedure?

The following preparations may be needed prior to the Hepatobiliary Nuclear Medicine Imaging procedure.

  • The physician may evaluate the individual’s medical history to gain a comprehensive knowledge of the overall health status of the patient, including information related to the medications that are being currently taken
  • Patients should inform the technician about any allergies or recent illnesses
  • Do inform the medical professional if you have a history of any medical conditions, such as a heart disease, asthma, diabetes, or kidney disease
  • No tests involving barium should have been performed on the patient in the last 48 hours, before this procedure
  • It is advisable to wear comfortable and loose clothes. Avoid wearing any metal objects or jewelry, as it may interfere with the scan
  • It is highly recommended to inform your healthcare professional, if you are pregnant or breastfeeding
  • Depending on the procedure adopted, the patient may be asked for certain bowel or bladder preparations, before the preparation sessions
  • Patients are asked not to eat or drink anything, at least 4 hours before the exam

What is the Consent Process before the Procedure?

  • A physician will request your consent for Hepatobiliary Nuclear Medicine Imaging procedure using an Informed Consent Form
  • Consent for the Procedure: A “consent” is your approval to undergo a procedure. A consent form is signed after the risks and benefits of the procedure, and alternative treatment options, are discussed. This process is called informed consent
  • You must sign the forms only after you are totally satisfied by the answers to your questions. In case of minors and individuals unable to personally give their consent, the individual’s legal guardian or next of kin, shall give their consent for the procedure

What are the Benefits versus Risks, for this Procedure?

Following are the benefits of the Hepatobiliary Nuclear Medicine Imaging procedure:

  • It is a painless (less invasive), less expensive procedure than an exploratory surgery and provides detailed information about the target organ
  • It is performed as an outpatient procedure
  • It gives information about the function and anatomic structure of the target organ, as opposed to an exploratory surgery

Following are the risks of the Hepatobiliary Nuclear Medicine Imaging procedure:

  • Small amounts of radiotracers are used in this procedure, thus there is a very low amount of radiation exposure involved
  • Some patients are allergic to radiotracers used in the procedure
  • The radiotracer injection may cause some pain at the site of injection

What are the Limitations of the Hepatobiliary Nuclear Medicine Imaging Scan radiology procedure?

Following are the limitations of the Hepatobiliary Nuclear Medicine Imaging procedure:

  • Nuclear medicine imaging may not provide the kind (quality) of resolution of the structures, as a CT or MRI scan would. But, the procedure is more sensitive and thus recommended in certain conditions, such as cholecystitis
  • Radiotracer accumulation may take a long time in some cases, and the nuclear medicine imaging may also take any hours to perform. Thus, this technique is a more time-consuming one

What are some Questions for your Physician?

Some of the basic questions that you might ask your healthcare provider or physician are as follows:

  • What is a Hepatobiliary Nuclear Medicine Imaging procedure?
  • Why is this procedure necessary? How will it help?
  • How soon should I get it done? Is it an emergency?
  • Who are the medical personnel involved in this procedure?
  • Where is the procedure performed?
  • What are the risks while performing the procedure?
  • What are the complications that might take place, during recovery?
  • What are the possible side effects from the procedure? How can I minimize these side effects?
  • How long will it take to recover? When can I resume normal work?
  • How many such procedures have you (the physician) performed?
  • Are there any lifestyle restrictions or modifications required, after the procedure is performed?
  • Are there any follow-up tests, periodic visits to the healthcare facility required, after the procedure?
  • Is there any medication that needs to be taken for life, after the procedure?
  • What are the costs involved?
  • Should I breastfeed my child after the procedure?

During the Hepatobiliary Nuclear Imaging Scan radiology procedure:

What is to be expected during the Hepatobiliary Nuclear Imaging Scan radiology procedure?

  • The Hepatobiliary Nuclear Imaging procedure is a painless and minimally-invasive procedure
  • If radiotracer is injected into the patient, the patient may feel a slight pain from needle prick
  • The radiotracer injection may give a cold sensation to the patient
  • The patient will be asked to stay still during the procedure, to minimize disturbances while imaging
  • If necessary during the procedure, the gallbladder may be emptied. The patient may feel a slight discomfort due to this, but there may not be any pain sensation

What kind of Anesthesia is given, during the Procedure?

Anesthesia is rarely used during a Hepatobiliary Nuclear Medicine Imaging procedure.

How much Blood will you lose, during the Procedure?

The Hepatobiliary Nuclear Medicine Imaging procedure is minimally-invasive; hence, the blood loss involved during the procedure is minimal.

What are the possible Risks and Complications during the Hepatobiliary Nuclear Medicine Imaging Scan radiology procedure?

  • Small amounts of radiotracers are used in the Hepatobiliary Nuclear Medicine Imaging procedure. Thus, there is a very low risk of radiation exposure involved
  • The patient may be allergic to radiotracers used in the procedure
  • Radiotracer injection may cause a little pain at the site of injection

What Post-Operative Care is needed at the Healthcare Facility after the Hepatobiliary Nuclear Medicine Imaging Scan radiology procedure?

No specific post-operative care is needed at home after the Hepatobiliary Nuclear Medicine Imaging procedure. 

After the Hepatobiliary Nuclear Medicine Imaging Scan radiology procedure:

What is to be expected after the Hepatobiliary Nuclear Medicine Imaging Scan radiology procedure?

  • The Hepatobiliary Nuclear Medicine Imaging procedure is a painless and noninvasive procedure
  • Patient may resume their normal activities immediately after the scan
  • A small amount of radiotracer stays in the body after the scan; however, this is lost through stool and urine
  • The patients are recommended to drink more water, in order to get rid of the radioactive materials quicker

When do you need to call your Physician?

Do inform your healthcare provider:

  • If there is significant pain after the procedure
  • If there is any bleeding from the IV insertion site
  • If you experience any fever or chills

What Post-Operative Care is needed at Home after the Hepatobiliary Nuclear Medicine Imaging Scan radiology procedure?

No specific post-operative care is needed at home after the Hepatobiliary Nuclear Medicine Imaging procedure.

How long does it normally take to fully recover, from the Procedure?

The entire procedure takes anywhere between 1-4 hours. The patient may resume their normal activities, immediately on completion of the Hepatobiliary Nuclear Medicine Imaging procedure.

Additional Information:

What happens to tissue (if any), taken out during the Procedure?

The Hepatobiliary Nuclear Medicine Imaging procedure does not involve the removal of any body tissue.

When should you expect results from the pathologist regarding tissue taken out, during the Procedure?

Since no tissue is removed during the procedure, a pathologist does not get involved in the care of the patient.

Who will you receive a Bill from, after the Hepatobiliary Nuclear Medicine Imaging Scan radiology procedure?

It is important to note that the number of bills that the patient may receive depends on the arrangement the healthcare facility has with the physician and other healthcare providers.

Sometimes, the patient may get a single bill that includes the healthcare facility and the consultant physician charges. Sometimes, the patient might get multiple bills depending on the healthcare provider involved. For instance, the patient may get a bill from:

  • The hospital, where the procedure is performed
  • Healthcare providers, physicians, and radiologists, who are involved in the process

The patient is advised to inquire and confirm the type of billing, before the Hepatobiliary Nuclear Medicine Imaging procedure is performed.

Reviewed and Approved by a member of the DoveMed Editorial Board
First uploaded: Oct. 22, 2014
Last updated: Feb. 5, 2019