Gallium Scan

What is it?

A gallium scan is a test to find abnormal areas in the soft tissue of your body. Gallium is the name of the medicine that you will receive for this test. This test may be used to find growths, areas of infection or swelling, or to find the cause of a fever. It may also be used to check the effects of treatment for cancer or other medical conditions. This is a type of nuclear (NU-klee-ar) medicine scan.

Why do I need a gallium scan?

A gallium scan may be done for any of the following medical conditions:

  • Diseases that cause redness, swelling, and pain, such as pulmonary fibrosis or inflammatory bowel syndrome

  • Cancer, Hodgkin's disease, or non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (lim-FOH-mah). The scan can also see if cancer has spread to other areas, or to see how well your cancer treatment is working.

  • Fever (high body temperature) that caregivers cannot find a cause for.

  • To find an infection, or to check how your body is responding to medicine used to treat an infection.

Who should not have this test?

  • Tell your caregiver before the test if you might be or are pregnant. Caregivers may suggest waiting to have the test until after your baby is born. Tell caregivers if you are breast feeding. They may suggest waiting to have the test until after you have finished breast feeding your baby.

  • Contrast medicines like barium used during a barium enema, or bismuth used in Pepto-Bismol® may change the results of this test. Tell your caregiver if you have had a test called a barium enema within the past four days. Tell your caregiver if you have taken a medicine that contains bismuth within the past four days.

What should I do to get ready for the gallium scan?

Before this scan, you are usually allowed to eat, drink fluids, and take any medicines that are usually taken. You may need to eat a special diet for lunch, and a clear liquid evening meal the day before the test. Gallium collects in the large intestine before it leaves your body in your bowel movements (stool). Your caregiver may tell you to take laxative medicine or a suppository the night before the scan. You may also need to have an enema one to two hours before the scan. The laxative and enemas will stop the gallium in your intestines from changing your test results.

Informed consent

is a legal document that explains the tests, treatments, or procedures that you may need. Informed consent means you understand what will be done and can make decisions about what you want. You give your permission when you sign the consent form. You can have someone sign this form for you if you are not able to sign it. You have the right to understand your medical care in words you know. Before you sign the consent form, understand the risks and benefits of what will be done. Make sure all your questions are answered.

How is a gallium scan performed?

  • Your caregiver will tell you what time to come to the Nuclear Medicine department where the scan is performed. A substance called gallium is put into a vein, usually in your hand or arm. Gallium is a radioactive tracer. As the tracer decays (breaks down), it gives off gamma radiation.

  • Caregivers may ask you to return at 24, 48, 72, and 96 hours after the injection. When you arrive, remove jewelry and other metal objects, and put on a hospital gown.

  • As you lie flat on a special bed, a scanning camera moves slowly over and around you. The scanner can locate the radiation coming off the tracer. Many pictures are taken during the scan to show how the tracer is spread throughout your body. Do not move unless caregivers ask you to change positions. Moving your body can make the scanning pictures blurry. Each scan takes about 45 to 90 minutes.

What will I feel during the scan?

You may feel discomfort when tracer solution is put in your vein. The scan itself is painless, but you may feel uncomfortable lying still during the scan. Caregivers may offer you medicine that may help you to lie still. If you need pillows or blankets, ask for them before the scan starts.

What should I do after the scan?

You may continue activities, eat, drink, and take your usual medicines as you did before the test. Drink plenty of fluids, such as water and juices to help flush the tracer out of your body. The tracer leaves your body quickly in your BMs, usually within four days. Flush the toilet three times after going to the bathroom. This makes sure that the small amount of tracer leaving your body does not stay in the toilet bowl.

What are normal and abnormal results?

Your bones, liver, spleen, and large intestine collect equal amounts of gallium. A normal gallium scan looks the same throughout without any large amounts of gallium in any area. An abnormal scan can have "hot" spots. A hot spot is an area that has more gallium because of an infection, inflammation, or a tumor (growth). Gallium scans may not be able to show if a tumor is malignant (cancer) or benign (not cancer).

What are the risks of having a gallium scan?

Rarely, a person may develop a rash, swelling, or have a serious allergic reaction to the tracer medicine. The place where the tracer was given may become red, swollen, painful, or infected. Some cancers do not show up on a gallium scan, so a normal scan does not always mean that you do not have cancer. If you do not have a gallium scan, caregivers may not be able to decide what would be the best care for your health condition. Your condition could get worse, or you could die. Call your caregiver if you are worried or have questions about your medicine or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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