Navigate Up

Orthopaedics Center - A-Z Index

#
I
Q
Y
Z

Print This Page

Liver scan

A liver scan uses a radioactive material to help determine how well the liver or spleen is working.

Alternative Names

Technetium scan; Liver technetium sulfur colloid scan; Liver-spleen radionuclide scan; Nuclear scan - technetium; Nuclear scan - liver or spleen

How the test is performed

The health care provider will inject a radioactive material called a radioisotope into one of your veins. After the liver has soaked up the material, you will be asked to lie on a table under the scanner.

The scanner can tell where the radioactive material has gathered in the body. Images are displayed on a computer. You may be asked to remain still, or to change positions during the scan.

How to prepare for the test

You must sign a consent form. You will be asked to remove jewelry, dentures, and other metals because they can interfere with the scanner's functions.

You may need to wear a hospital gown.

How the test will feel

You will feel a sharp prick when the needle with the radioactive substance is inserted into your vein. You shouldn’t feel anything during the actual scan. If you have difficulty lying still or are very anxious, you may be given a mild sedative to help you relax.

Why the test is performed

The test can provide information about liver and spleen function. It is also used to help confirm other test results.

Currently, the most common use for a liver scan is to diagnose a condition called benign focal nodular hyperplasia, or FNH.

Normal Values

The liver and spleen should appear normal in size, shape, and location. The radioisotope is absorbed evenly.

What abnormal results mean

What the risks are

There is some concern with radiation from any scan. However, the level of radiation in this procedure is less than that of most x-rays and is not considered significant enough to cause harm to the average person.

Pregnant or nursing women should consult their health care provider before any exposure to radiation, because fetuses and nursing babies are more sensitive to the effects of radiation.

Special considerations

Other tests may be needed to confirm the findings of this test. Additional tests may include an abdominal ultrasound , abdominal CT scan , liver biopsy , or liver flow study.

Most often, CT or MRI scans are used to evaluate the liver and spleen instead of a liver scan.

References

Lidofsky S. Jaundice. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds. Sleisenger and Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 9th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2010:chap 20.

Lomas DJ. The liver. In: Adam A, Dixon A, eds. Grainger and Allison’s Diagnostic Radiology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2008:chap 35.

Updated: 1/31/2011

David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine; Jason Levy, MD, Northside Radiology Associates, Atlanta, Georgia. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.


©  UPMC | Affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences
Supplemental content provided by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions. All rights reserved.

For help in finding a doctor or health service that suits your needs, call the UPMC Referral Service at 412-647-UPMC (8762) or 1-800-533-UPMC (8762). Select option 1.

UPMC is an equal opportunity employer. UPMC policy prohibits discrimination or harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, age, sex, genetics, sexual orientation, marital status, familial status, disability, veteran status, or any other legally protected group status. Further, UPMC will continue to support and promote equal employment opportunity, human dignity, and racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity. This policy applies to admissions, employment, and access to and treatment in UPMC programs and activities. This commitment is made by UPMC in accordance with federal, state, and/or local laws and regulations.

Medical information made available on UPMC.com is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not rely entirely on this information for your health care needs. Ask your own doctor or health care provider any specific medical questions that you have. Further, UPMC.com is not a tool to be used in the case of an emergency. If an emergency arises, you should seek appropriate emergency medical services.

For UPMC Mercy Patients: As a Catholic hospital, UPMC Mercy abides by the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, as determined by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. As such, UPMC Mercy neither endorses nor provides medical practices and/or procedures that contradict the moral teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.

© UPMC
Pittsburgh, PA, USA UPMC.com