Medical Imaging

Nuclear Medicine > Exams & Procedures > Biliary Scan

This test determines bile flow from the liver to the gallbladder and then the gut. It is used to see if there is a blockage of the bile ducts, looks for the presence of bile leaks, and is used to determine the level of function of the gallbladder.

The test involves the injection of a radioactive tracer that mimics bile components. The tracer is picked up by the liver, processed and excreted as bile. Pictures are taken to follow the transit of the tracer from the blood to the liver, through the bile ducts into the gallbladder, and from the gallbladder into the gut.


  • You should have nothing to eat or drink four hours prior to test, but should have eaten within the last 24 hours.
  • Bring a list of all medications and supplements you take. This includes vitamins, herbal remedies, and holistic medications.
  • Do not bring children or pregnant women with you to the department. We do not want to expose them to unnecessary radiation.
  • Any of these procedures is subject to change according to the nuclear medicine physician. The duration of the tests is a rough estimate. Please be aware that the time may be lengthened if a scan has to be repeated, if emergency cases are brought to the department or due to unforeseen circumstances.

About the Procedure

  • The procedure takes about one hour and 15 minutes with the possibility of delayed pictures two hours after the injection.
  • A technologist will briefly explain the test to you and try to answer any questions you may have about the procedure.
  • A technologist will ask you a few questions about your medical history and medications.
  • You will be asked to lie down on a bed.
  • A camera will be positioned above your chest and abdomen.
  • The technologist will give you an injection of a radioactive tracer into a vein.
  • Pictures are taken continuously for 45 to 60 minutes.
  • At the end of one hour, two pictures are taken: one above the chest and abdomen and one from the right side (each picture is takes five minutes).
  • The technologist may give you an eight ounce drink of Ensure-Plus®, a meal replacement drink, and send you away for an hour.
  • When you return, the two five-minute pictures will be repeated.