Procedure & Risks Associated With Liver and Spleen Scan

Submitted on March 27, 2012

Liver and Spleen Scan

A liver and spleen scan is essentially used to check for diseases affecting the spleen or the liver and, in the event liver disease is diagnosed. It also helps the medical staff or presiding doctor gauge the extent to which the liver is damaged or functional. It is also one of the most commonly used medical treatments to help detect cancer in the liver and analyze if cancer has spread to the liver or spleen. A liver and spleen scan is categorized as a nuclear scan because it incorporates the use of a special gamma camera to take pictures of the organs and tissues after a radioactive tracing element has been introduced into the body. This radioactive tracer is absorbed by the tissues and organs and shows up their activity and functionality. The radioactive tracer depends largely on the type of test being carried out and, in the case of a liver and spleen scan, this is usually a colloidal pharmaceutical known as technetium - 99. The areas of the spleen in which the tracer collects will show up as bright spots in the pictures captured by the gamma camera. The pattern in which the tracer spreads through the liver and organs will help identify the presence of cysts, certain tumors, abscesses and problems with overall liver function.


During a liver and spleen scan, the patient receives and intravenous injection that rapidly accumulates in the reticuloendothelial cells of the liver and spleen. About 15 minutes later, the patient will be asked to lie down on an x - ray table and the gamma camera will rotate around the individual, capturing images of the liver and spleen. The test is painless and will usually take a total of 30 minutes to be completed.


Because the amount of radionuclide injected into the patient's vein is so minimal, there is no cause for concern about radioactive exposure. However, the injection itself may cause a slight amount of discomfort when penetrating through the skin. Although a rarity, there is a chance of an allergic reaction taking place. As a result, if you are aware of any allergies when it comes to latex, contract dyes or even certain medications, it is best to inform your doctor of the same. When pregnant or breast feeding make sure you make your doctor aware of the condition. If you are, you will have to switch to feeding your baby formula for a couple of days after the procedure to allow the dye to exit your body.