- liver scan
- spleen scan
- liver scintigraphy
- radioisotope liver scan
- radionuclide liver scan
- hepatic scintigraphy
A liver-spleen scan is an imaging test used to examine the liver and/or spleen. The liver and spleen are organs inside the abdomen that have different functions. A radioactive material injected into a person's veins allows these organs to be imaged with a special camera.
Who is a candidate for the test?
A healthcare professional may order a liver-spleen scan for a person for any of several reasons, including:
- to evaluate the size, shape, and position of the liver and spleen. For instance, some people may have more than one spleen, which this test can easily detect.
- to detect abnormal lesions in the liver or spleen, such as a collection of blood or pus or a tumor
- to evaluate the extent of damage to a diseased liver, such as one affected by hepatitis or cirrhosis. Hepatitis is inflammation of the liver and cirrhosis is permanent scarring of the liver.
- to evaluate certain known tumors of the liver
How is the test performed?
The individual is usually asked to change into a hospital gown. An intravenous line (IV) is inserted into a vein, usually in the wrist or forearm. A radioactive material is infused through the IV, then the person waits for about 15 minutes for the material to be taken up by the liver and spleen from the bloodstream.
At this point the person is asked to lie flat on an X-ray table. A special camera rotates around the person and takes pictures of the liver and spleen by detecting the radiation emitted by the material inside the body. The test is painless and requires about 30 minutes.
What is involved in preparation for the test?
There is no special preparation required before this test. Certain other tests cannot be performed on the same day as a liver-spleen scan. For instance, any test that requires a contrast material called barium inside the intestines may interfere with the liver-spleen scan. Because the radioactive substance used in this test may harm an unborn child, women who are or may be pregnant should tell the healthcare professionals before having a liver-spleen scan.
What do the test results mean?
A normal test will show a normal size, position, and appearance of the liver and spleen.
Abnormal results from this test may indicate:
- malfunction of the liver
- a lesion in the liver or spleen, such as a collection of pus or blood, or a tumor
- more than one spleen or absence of the spleen
- a certain type of benign (non-malignant) tumor called focal nodular hyperplasia.
Basic Radiology, 1996, Chen et al.