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How Do I Interpret My HIDA Scan Results?

By Britt Archer
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Popular wisdom says timing is everything, and this can also apply to HIDA scan results. A patient can get a general idea of his or her HIDA, or hepatobiliary iminodiacetic acid, scan results by noting how long the nuclear imaging test takes to complete. A shorter testing period, perhaps an hour or hour and a half, likely means no problem. If the scan takes several hours or more to complete, it could mean there is a problem, although not always. The timing is important because it can indicate if the injected radioactive material given to a patient in preparation for the scan is making its way through the body as it should, or if it is somehow being blocked or not absorbed properly, which could indicate a problem.

If the injected chemical, called a radioactive tracer, is too slow, it could mean that there is some blockage present. Slowness also could mean a patient’s liver is not functioning properly. If the tracer moves along through your body as it should, it means the scan results indicate there is no dysfunction. A HIDA scan also checks to make sure the tracer has reached areas of the body it should be able to reach, or if it has reached areas where it isn’t normally supposed to be. If the results say that none of the radioactive chemical has reached your gallbladder, it could mean the gallbladder is inflamed, a condition known as cholecystitis. If the tracer is outside of the normal area, it may mean there is a leak in the bile ducts.

The color of images produced by a scan can also be an indication of the scan results. More dark areas indicate more absorption of the radioactive chemical. This would mean the tracer has moved through the body as it should. If there are more light areas than dark, the chemical likely didn’t reach all the areas it should have.

The radioactive material is injected into the body to allow the scan to detect the flow of bile. The HIDA scan results give an accounting of the flow of bile from the liver through its journey to the small intestine. The results also provide an appraisal of gallbladder function. Abnormal results could indicate gallstones, inflammation, a problem with a bile duct, or a blockage.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

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