Skip to main content

Health Encyclopedia

Search the Health Encyclopedia

Gallium scan

Definition

A gallium scan is a test to look for swelling (inflammation), infection, or cancer in the body. It uses a radioactive material called gallium and is a type of nuclear medicine exam.

A related test is gallium scan of the lung.

Alternative Names

Liver gallium scan; Bony gallium scan

How the Test is Performed

You will get gallium injected into your vein. Gallium is a radioactive material. The gallium travels through the bloodstream and collects in the bones and certain organs.

Your health care provider will tell you to return at a later time to be scanned. The scan will take place 6 to 48 hours after the gallium is injected. The test time depends on what condition your doctor is looking for. In some cases, people are scanned more than once.

You will lie on your back on the scanner table. A special camera detects where the gallium has gathered in the body.

You must lie still during the scan, which takes 30 to 60 minutes.

How to Prepare for the Test

Stool in the bowel can interfere with the test. You may need to take a laxative the night before you have the test. Or, you may get an enema 1 to 2 hours before the test. You may eat and drink liquids normally.

You will need to sign a consent form. You will need to take off all jewelry and metal objects before the test.

How the Test will Feel

You will feel a sharp prick when you get the injection. The site may be sore for a few minutes.

The hardest part of the scan is holding still. The scan itself is painless. The technician can help make you comfortable before the scan begins.

Why the Test is Performed

This test may be done to look for the cause of a fever that has lasted a few weeks without an explanation.

Normal Results

Gallium normally collects in bones, the liver, spleen, the large bowel, and breast tissue.

What Abnormal Results Mean

Gallium detected outside normal areas can be a sign of:

The test may be done to look for lung conditions such as:

Risks

There is a small risk for radiation exposure. This risk is less than that with x-rays or CT scans. Pregnant or nursing women and young children should avoid radiation exposure if at all possible.

Considerations

Not all cancers show up on a gallium scan. Areas of inflammation, such as recent surgical scars, may show up on the scan. However, they do not necessarily indicate an infection.

References

Hutton BF, Segerman D, Miles KA. Radionuclide and hybrid imaging. In: Adam A, Dixon AK, Gillard JH, Schaefer-Prokop CM. eds. Grainger & Allison's Diagnostic Radiology. 6th ed. New York, NY: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2015:chap 6.

Palestro CJ, Brown ML, Forstrom LA, et al. Society of nuclear medicine procedure guideline for gallium scintigraphy in inflammation. The Society of Nuclear Medicine. 2004. snmmi.files.cms-plus.com/docs/Gallium_Scintigraphy_in_Inflammation_v3.pdf. Accessed August 4, 2016.

Vinnicombe SJ, Avril N, Reznek RH. Reticuloendothelial disorders: lymphoma. In: Adam A, Dixon AK, Gillard JH, Schaefer-Prokop CM. eds. Grainger & Allison's Diagnostic Radiology. 6th ed. New York, NY: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2015:chap 70.

Review Date:7/3/2016
Reviewed By:Jason Levy, MD, Northside Radiology Associates, Atlanta, Georgia. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997-A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

adam.com

The Agency for Health Care Administration (Agency) and this website do not claim the information on, or referred to by, this site is error free. This site may include links to websites of other government agencies or private groups. Our Agency and this website do not control such sites and are not responsible for their content. Reference to or links to any other group, product, service, or information does not mean our Agency or this website approves of that group, product, service, or information.

Additionally, while health information provided through this website may be a valuable resource for the public, it is not designed to offer medical advice. Talk with your doctor about medical care questions you may have.

Health
Outcome Data

No data available for this condition/procedure.

Health Encyclopedia

More Features

We Appreciate Your Feedback!
1. Did you find this information useful?
         Yes
         No
2. Would you recommend this website to family and friends?
         Yes
         No