Medical Imaging

Nuclear Medicine > Exams & Procedures > Gallium Scan

This test will locate areas of infection, inflammation, and tumors within the body. Gallium is a radioactive tracer that circulates in the blood and collects slowly in areas of infection or tumor.

This scan surveys the body for abnormal collections of the tracer in infection sites or in tumors. This test may have been ordered by your doctor to investigate several different possible disease processes:

  1. Diagnose, evaluate, and follow-up inflammatory processes:
    • osteomyelitis (performed in combination with a bone scan).
    • arcoidosis
    • pulmonary fibrosis
    • tuberculosis
    • urinary tract infections
    • AIDS complications (e.g. Pneumocystis carini pneumonia, cytomegalovirus, cryptococcus, herpes simplex, taxoplasmosis, and mycobacterium aviumintracelluar infections).
    • fever of unknown origin.
    • infection of joint prosthesis.
  2. Diagnose, evaluate, and follow-up cancer malignancies:
    • lymphoma.
    • leukemia.
    • Kaposi's sarcoma (performed in combination with a thallium scan).
    • lung cancer.
    • melanoma.
    • Burkitt's lymphoma.
    • hepatoma.
    • seminoma.
    • anaplastic tumors.
      This test involves the injection of a radioactive tracer into a vein. The gallium tracer collects slowly in infection sites. Pictures are taken at various times ranging from 48 to 72 hours after the injection.


  • None for the injection.
  • If a bone infection (osteomyelitis) is suspected, a bone scan will be performed first and the gallium injection will be given at the end of the scan.
  • If Kaposi's sarcoma is suspected, a thallium scan will be performed first and the gallium injection will be given at the end of the scan.
  • For abdomen or pelvis imaging only, it is recommended that a mild laxative be taken to ensure that you clear any remaining tracer from the bowel. Patients coming from home should take an over the counter laxative the night of the injection and the evening before the pictures to ensure a bowel movement before the scan. Hospitalized patients will be given magnesium citrate as a laxative and will have a water enema the morning of the scan.
  • 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 15 minutes for the patient interview and the injection and 30 to 60 minutes for pictures.
  • 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.
  • The technologist will give you an injection of a radioactive tracer into a vein.
  • Pictures will be taken between 48 and 72 hours after the tracer is injected.
  • Pictures will take 30 to 60 minutes depending on the type of scan your doctor has asked for (whole body scan, specific site, or three-dimensional pictures).