A gallium scan is a
nuclear medicine test. A nuclear medicine test uses a
special camera to take pictures of specific tissues in the body after a
radioactive tracer (radionuclide or radioisotope) makes them visible. Each type
of tissue that may be scanned (including bones, organs, glands, and blood
vessels) uses a different radioactive compound as a tracer. The radioactivity
of a tracer decreases over a period of hours, days, or weeks. The tracer stays
in the body until it is eliminated as waste, usually in the urine or stool
During a gallium scan, the tracer (radioactive gallium
citrate) is injected into a vein in the arm. It travels through the bloodstream
and into the body's tissues, primarily the bones, liver, intestine, and areas
of tissue where inflammation or a buildup of
white blood cells (WBCs) is present. It often takes
the tracer a few days to build up in these areas, so in most cases a scan is
done at 2 days and again at 3 days after the tracer is injected. Areas where
the tracer builds up in higher-than-normal amounts show up as bright or "hot"
spots in the pictures. The problem areas may be caused by infection, certain
inflammatory diseases, or a tumor.
Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Howard Schaff, MD - Diagnostic Radiology
November 29, 2012
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