What are the risks and potential complications of a gallbladder scan?  

Complications of a gallbladder scan are uncommon, but any medical procedure involves risk and potential complications. Complications may become serious in some cases. Complications can develop during the procedure or your recovery. Risks and potential complications of a gallbladder scan include: 

  • Adverse or allergic reaction to the tracer injection
  • Headache
  • Radiation risks associated with the tracer injection, although the amount of radiation exposure is very small. Your radiology team follows strict standards for radiographic techniques and will use the lowest amount of radiation possible to produce the best images.

How do I prepare for my gallbladder scan?

You are an important member of your own healthcare team. The steps you take before your gallbladder scan can help obtain the most accurate results. You can prepare for a gallbladder scan by:

  • Answering all questions about your medical history and medications. This includes prescriptions, over-the-counter drugs, herbal treatments, and vitamins. It is a good idea to carry a current list of your medical conditions, medications, and allergies at all times.
  • Not eating or drinking prior to the procedure as directed by your doctor. This may include not eating or drinking certain (or any) food or beverages for two to four hours before the procedure. 
  • Notifying your doctor if there is any chance of pregnancy or if you are breastfeeding. A gallbladder scan can affect your unborn child or breast milk.
  • Taking or stopping medications before the procedure exactly as directed by your doctor 

Questions to ask your doctor

Preparing for a diagnostic procedure can be stressful. It is common for patients to forget some of their questions during a doctor’s office visit. You may also think of other questions after your appointment.  Contact your doctor with concerns and questions before a gall bladder scan and between appointments. 

It is also a good idea to bring a list of questions to your appointments. Questions can include:

  • Why do I need a gallbladder scan? 
  • How much radiation will I be exposed to?
  • How long will the procedure take? When can I go home?
  • What restrictions will I have before and after the procedure? When can return to work and other activities?
  • How should I take my medications? 
  • How will you treat my pain?
  • When will I receive the results of my test?
  • What other tests or treatments might I need?
  • When should I follow up with you?
  • How should I contact you? Ask for numbers to call during and after regular hours.

What can I expect after my gallbladder scan?

Knowing what to expect after a gallbladder scan can help you get back to your everyday life as soon as possible.

How will I feel after the gallbladder scan?

People generally return to their normal diet right after a gallbladder scan. Minor after-effects of the procedure may include a headache or minor body aches from lying still during the procedure. The tracer passes out of your body through your urine and sweat within one to two days. You can help this process by drinking plenty of water. 

When can I go home?

Patients often go home right after a gallbladder scan and get the results at a later time. Some people, especially those with severe abdominal pain, discuss the results with the doctor right away and may stay in the hospital for surgery or other treatments. 

When should I call my doctor?

It is important to keep your follow-up appointments after a gallbladder scan. Contact your doctor for questions and concerns between appointments. Call your doctor right away or seek immediate medical care if you have increased or severe abdominal pain, fever, nausea, or vomiting. These symptoms may be a sign that your condition is getting worse.