Front view of liver showing gallbladder and bile duct.

A HIDA scan is an imaging test. It can be used to check for problems in the liver, gallbladder, and bile ducts. During the test, a small amount of radioactive substance (tracer) is injected into a vein in your arm or hand. Pictures are then taken to track the movement of the tracer. The test takes about 2 hours. In some cases, more pictures may need to be taken after a wait of 4 hours. You’ll be told as the test progresses how long your test may take.

Before the test

  • Follow any directions you’re given for not eating or drinking before the procedure. Your healthcare provider will give you instructions if required.

  • Tell your healthcare provider what medicines you’re taking. This includes vitamins, herbs, and over-the-counter medicines. You may be told to stop taking some or all of them in the days before the test.

  • Follow any other instructions you’re given to get ready for the test.

For your safety

Let the technologist know if you:

  • Are taking any medicines or have allergies to any medicines

  • Had recent X-rays or tests that used barium

  • Had recent surgery

  • Have other health problems, such as diabetes

  • Are pregnant or might be pregnant

  • Are breastfeeding

During the test

The test is done by a nuclear medicine or radiology technologist. It can be done in a hospital or test center:

  • You’ll lie on your back on a table. A special camera (also called a scanner) will be positioned above your belly (abdomen).

  • An IV (intravenous) needle or IV line is placed into a vein in your arm or hand. The tracer is then injected through the IV line.

  • Pictures are taken as the tracer follows the movement of bile through the liver, gallbladder, and bile ducts, and the first part of the small intestine (duodenum). Bile is a substance made by the liver that helps you digest fat.

  • You’ll need to lie still to help ensure that the pictures are not blurry.

  • Based on your healthcare provider's practices, you may be given a substance by mouth or injected thru a vein that causes the gallbladder to contract and release bile. Be sure to let the technologist know if you feel discomfort.

  • In some cases, pain medicine called morphine is injected through the IV line. Morphine helps move the tracer into the gallbladder.

  • If needed, more pictures will be taken after 4 hours.

After the test

  • The technologist will let you know when the test is completed.

  • If you were given a pain medicine such as morphine, have a family member or friend drive you home. The morphine can make you more tired than usual. Rest for as long as needed before you return to your normal routine.

  • The tracer will pass out of the body in your stool and urine within 24 hours. Drink plenty of fluids to help the tracer pass.


Your healthcare provider will go over test results with you when they are ready. This is likely within a few days of the test.

Risks and possible complications of a HIDA scan

These can include:

  • Problems at the IV site

  • Allergic reaction to the tracer or medicine used during the test

  • Radiation exposure from the tracer