A Gallium Scan is a painless diagnostic test that uses a small amount of radioactive material inserted in the body. A nearby camera uses the material to see structures and functions inside your body.
The body eventually eliminates the material as waste, generally in urine or your stool.
A Gallium Scan is a type of nuclear medicine.
A Gallium Scan is not generally advisable for women who are pregnant or nursing, or for people who recently had a scan or x-ray with barium contrast.
How A Galium Scan Is Performed
- With a Gallium Scan, a small dose of radioactive material (generally known as Gallium or a tracer) is inserted in your body, usually by an injection into a vein. The material then travels throughout your body and into the various tissues.
- Since it takes time for the Gallium to build up, there is usually a lag time of 24 – 48 hours before the scan is performed. Depending on the reason for the scan, a second scan may be performed after another lag time, such as 72 hours after the tracer is inserted into your body.
- It is not unusual to ask you to take a laxative the night before the scan, and to possibly to have an enema two to three hours before the scan. This prevents waste from interfering with the scan.
- During most nuclear scanning tests, you lie still on a scanning table, usually covered by a cloth or paper covering. The scan is done by a special camera that detects energy coming from the radioactive substance. The camera is generally positioned close to the body and generally moves slowly above and around the body. The camera itself does not have in it, or produce, any radioactive material.
- A Gallium Scan is painless. The hardest part can be lying still. You can ask for a pillow or blanket before the scan starts to make yourself more comfortable.
- Most scans take 20 to 45 minutes. Some take as long as 60 minutes.
Who Administers And Reads A Galium Scan
- A Gallium Scan is administered by a nuclear medicine technologist.
- The resulting images are read by a radiologist (a doctor who specializes in performing and interpreting diagnostic imaging tests) or a nuclear medicine specialist (a doctor who specializes in performing and interpreting tests which involve radioactive substances.)
- It may take a few days before the results of the test are ready.
Risks Associated With A Galium Scan
- For the patient, there is a minimal risk of radiation exposure (less than with x-rays or CT scans).
- There is no risk for people who come in contact with you after the test because the amount of radiation is so small.
People For Whom A Gallium Scan Is Not Recommended
Unless the benefits of the test exceed the risk, radiation exposure of any sort is not usually recommended for:
- Pregnant women
- Nursing women. (Your doctor will provide instructions on how to care for your baby until the Gallium tracer is out of your system entirely.)
- Young children
- Anyone who has had a recent scan or X-ray with barium contrast