Procedure, Side Effects and Results of Gallium Scan

Submitted on March 27, 2012

What Is a Gallium Scan?

A Gallium scan is a medical diagnostic imaging procedure that is used to detect certain infections and cancers. A Gallium scan is a test that uses radioactive material to look for infections in an individual's body. It is a kind of nuclear medicine exam. A nuclear medicine exam makes use of a special camera that helps take images of certain precise tissues of the body. This is possible because of the use of a radioactive tracer which makes them visible. Keep in mind that different radioactive compounds will be used as a tracer depending on the type of tissue that is to be scanned.

Reasons Why It is Conducted

A Gallium scan may be recommended for the following reasons.

  • To detect an abscess or infections, particularly in the bones.
  • To detect certain types of cancers like lymphomas. It can also be used to check if the cancer has spread to other parts of the body, or to monitor cancer treatment and judge its effectiveness.
  • Monitor a person's response to antibiotic treatment.
  • To find the source of an infection that maybe causing a fever.
  • A Gallium scan for sarcoidosis or pulmonary fibrosis may also be recommended by your doctor.

Side Effects

There is very little you need to do by way of preparation for a gallium scan. Do inform your doctor if you are pregnant or might be pregnant before you do this exam. If you are breastfeeding you might be asked to stop two weeks before the scan and may have to stop breastfeeding completely after the scan. There are no Gallium scan side effects but there may be traces of radioisotope in your body for up to four weeks after the scan. The tracer stays in the body until it is eliminated as waste in either the urine or stool.

Procedure and Results

The Gallium scan procedure is as given below. A radioactive tracer will be injected into your arm. If your doctor feels you have an inflammatory disease the scan will be done about 4-6 hours after the injection, otherwise you will then have to return after either 72 hours or 48 hours for the scan. You will then have to lie on your back on a table and a camera will be positioned above you which will detect where the gallium has collected in your body. You must lie still during the scan. The entire procedure takes about 30-60 minutes. Gallium scan results will be given to you after the scan. Normal results will show a collection of gallium in the breast tissue, bones, the large bowel, liver and spleen. Abnormal results will show gallium in areas outside the ones mentioned above.