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A liver scan is an imaging test to look at your liver and see how well it is working. This test may also be called a liver-spleen scan because the doctor often looks at the spleen at the same time. The spleen is near the liver and works closely with it.
A liver scan is a type of nuclear imaging test. This means that a tiny amount of a radioactive matter is used during the scan. The radioactive matter (radioactive tracer) is absorbed by normal liver tissue. The rest of the radioactive tracer is absorbed by your spleen and bone marrow.
The radioactive tracer sends out gamma rays. These are picked up by the scanner to make a picture of your liver.
The areas of the liver where the radioactive tracer collects in greater amounts are called "hot spots." The areas that do not absorb the tracer and appear less bright on the scan image are referred to as "cold spots."
A liver scan may be done to look for diseases such as cancer, hepatitis, or cirrhosis. The scan can also see tumors, abscesses, or cysts of the liver or spleen. It can also see if your liver or spleen is larger than normal. It can be used to diagnose high blood pressure in your liver (portal hypertension).
A liver scan may be done to see how well the liver or spleen is working after trauma to the abdomen. You may also have this scan if you have pain in the upper right area of your abdomen.
You may need this scan if you have liver disease. Your healthcare provider may use the scan to see how well your treatment is working. Or he or she can see how the disease has progressed.
Your healthcare provider may have other reasons to recommend a liver scan.
The risk from the radioactive tracer is very low. The amount used in the test is very small. You may feel some slight discomfort when the tracer is injected. Allergic reactions to the tracer are rare, but they may happen.
Lying on the scanning table during the procedure may cause some discomfort or pain for certain people.
Tell your healthcare provider if you:
You may have other risks that are unique to you. Be sure to discuss any concerns with your healthcare provider before the procedure.
Certain things may make a liver scan less accurate. These include:
You may have a liver scan as an outpatient or as part of your stay in a hospital. The way the test is done may vary depending on your condition and your healthcare provider's practices.
Generally, a liver scan follows this process:
The liver scan is not painful. But you may have some discomfort or pain from lying still during the test. This may because of recent surgery or a joint injury. The technologist will use all possible comfort measures and do the scan as quickly as possible to minimize any discomfort or pain.
You should move slowly when getting up from the scanner table to avoid any dizziness or lightheadedness.
You may be told to drink plenty of fluids and empty your bladder often for about a day after the scan. This will help flush the tracer from your body.
The medical staff will check the IV site for any signs of redness or swelling. Tell your healthcare provider if you see any pain, redness, or swelling at the IV site after you go home. These may be signs of infection or another type of reaction.
You may go back to your usual diet and activities as directed by your healthcare provider.
Your healthcare provider may give you other instructions, depending on your situation.
Bayhealth is Southern Delaware’s healthcare leader with hospitals in Dover and in Milford. Bayhealth provides a wide range of medical services, including cardiovascular, cancer, orthopaedics and rehabilitation, pediatrics, respiratory care, sleep care, surgical weight loss and women’s services.