Procedure, Results, Side Effects and Cost of Hida Scan For Gallbladder

Submitted by Nic on October 18, 2012

A Hepatobiliary Iminodiacetic Acid (HIDA) scan refers to an imaging procedure, through which a medical expert tracks the production and flow of bile from your liver, into your small intestines. This procedure creates images of your gall bladder, liver, small intestines and the bile ducts. Some of the alternate names for the HIDA scan are Cholescintigraphy and Hepatobiliary Scintigraphy. The HIDA scan involves the use of a tracer or radioactive chemical and therefore, it is a type of imaging study known as nuclear medicine scan. Your doctor may order a HIDA gallbladder scan, to check for -

  • Obstructions in the bile ducts, caused by gallstones or a tumor
  • Diseases of the gallbladder
  • Cholecystitis or inflammation in the gallbladder
  • Bile leakage from the gallbladder or bile ducts

At times, your doctor may also ask you to go through a HIDA scan for gallbladder, just to measure gallbladder ejection fraction or the rate at which your gallbladder releases bile.


The HIDA gallbladder scan is conducted by a radiologist and can be completed within 2 hours or so. During the procedure:

  • You will be asked to lie down on a bed
  • The radiologist will inject a radioactive chemical intravenously
  • A camera will be placed over your abdominal area. This is a special camera, as it senses radioactivity and captures pictures of all the areas that the tracer travels to.
  • The test chemical injected into your body will be removed from the blood and secreted into the bile
  • From the liver, the chemical should flow with the bile, into the bile ducts, gallbladder and the intestines.
  • The radiologist will get a look at your gallbladder, bile-filled liver as well as your bile ducts.


Though a radiologist may be able to give you an idea about the results of the scan right away, in most cases the results will be sent directly to your consulting physician, who will explain them to you. The HIDA gallbladder scan results usually indicate -

  • Normal activity: In case the tracer moves freely with the bile, from the liver, to the small intestines, it usually means that there is no problem.
  • Inflammation: If the tracer cannot be seen in the gallbladder, it could be an indication or cholecystitis or an inflammation in the gall bladder
  • Leakage: If the scan picks up images of the tracer outside the biliary system, it means that there is a leak.

Speak to your doctor to know about your results and their indications.

Side effects

The amount of radioactivity that your body is exposed to during the procedure is too small to cause any serious problems. This tracer becomes inactive after a couple of hours and is usually eliminated in the stools. However, there are a few side effects associated with the HIDA gallbladder scan, such as -

  • Development of a rash
  • Bruising at the site of the injection
  • Allergic reactions to the medication use for enhancement of the procedure.

Nuclear medicine tests are not performed on pregnant women, because of their adverse effect on the fetus. Therefore, if you are pregnant and have been advised to undergo a HIDA scan, it is important for you to speak with your doctor.

Cost of HIDA scan

The cost of the HIDA scan may vary, depending upon your radiologist's fees and the medical facility charges. However you can expect to pay anywhere between US$ 1,500 and US$ 2,000, which should include the cost of the scan, tracer and the radiologists fee.


  • Saroja Adusumilli, Evan S Siegelman, MR imaging of the gallbladder, Magnetic Resonance Imaging Clinics of North America, Volume 10, Issue 1, February 2002, Pages 165-184, ISSN 1064-9689, 10.1016/S1064-9689(03)00055-2.
  • The SNM procedure guideline for hepatobiliary scintigraphy 4.0. Reston, Va.: Society of Nuclear Medicine.
  • Practice guideline for the performance of adult and pediatric hepatobiliary scintigraphy. Reston, Va.: American College of Radiology.
  • Segerman D, et al. Radionuclide imaging: General principles. In: Adams A, et al. Grainger & Allison's Diagnostic Radiology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Elsevier
  • Mettler FA. Essentials of Radiology. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Elsevier Saunders
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