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Medical Imaging

Nuclear Medicine > Exams & Procedures > Salivary Gland Scan

This scan tests the size, shape and function of the salivary glands. It may have been ordered by your doctor to investigate several different possible disease processes:

  • To help determine the cause of salivary gland swelling (e.g. bacteria or virus).
  • To detect a blockage of the salivary ducts.
  • To detect a growth in the salivary glands (e.g. Warthin's Tumour).
  • To help diagnose abnormal mouth dryness as Sjogren's Syndrome.

The test involves the injection of a radioactive tracer that will flow through the bloodstream and be picked up by the salivary glands. Pictures are taken continuously for 15 minutes from the time the tracer is injected. A one-minute picture will then be taken from above and on angles from the right and from the left side. The camera will be placed above you and you will be asked to bite down on a lemon wedge while pictures are taken continuously for five minutes. Again, a one-minute picture will be taken from above and on angles from the right and left side.


  • You should inform the technologist if you have allergies to citrus products (i.e. lemon juice).
  • 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 45 minutes.
  • 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 an imaging bed.
  • Cameras will be positioned above you. Please inform the technologist if you are uncomfortable in small spaces (claustrophobic).
  • The technologist will give you an injection of a radioactive tracer into a vein.
  • Pictures are taken as the tracer is injected and for the next 15 minutes.
  • One-minute pictures are taken from above and from angles on the right and left sides.
  • The camera will then be placed above you. You will be given a lemon wedge to bite down on and suck during the next set of pictures, which last five minutes.
  • One-minute pictures are taken from above and from angles on the right and left sides after the lemon.