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Medical Imaging

Nuclear Medicine > Exams & Procedures > Liver/Spleen RBC Scan

This test assesses whether or not a liver mass is a blood vessel mass (hemangioma).

The test involves labeling your red blood cells (RBCs) with a radioactive tracer. To label your blood you are given two injections 20 to 30 minutes apart. The first injection prepares your blood for the radioactive tracer. The second injection is a small amount of a radioactive tracer that will allow us to take pictures of the blood distribution in your body. Pictures are taken during the injection of the radioactive tracer and pictures are taken from different angles around your liver for about 15 minutes. A three-dimensional picture of the liver is taken two to three hours after the radioactive injection.


  • If your doctor is trying to determine if a liver mass is a blood vessel mass (hemangioma) you should have a liver/spleen colloid scan 48 hours before this 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 four and a half hours: 30 minutes to label the blood, 15 minutes for initial pictures and a three hour break.
  • 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 receive an injection of a blood labeling drug, which has no side effects, into a vein and then wait 20 to 30 minutes.
  • The technologist will ask you to lie down on the bed and the camera will be positioned above your chest.
  • You will receive the injection of radioactive tracer into a vein.
  • Pictures are taken as the tracer is injected to determine the blood flow to the liver.
  • More pictures are taken immediately after the injection from different angles.
  • You will be given a two to three hour break and will return to repeat the earlier pictures.
  • The cameras will then rotate around your body slowly taking a three-dimensional picture (tomogram), which takes about 20 minutes.