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Lung gallium scan

Definition

Lung gallium scan is a type of nuclear scan that uses radioactive gallium to identify swelling (inflammation) in the lungs.

Alternative Names

Gallium 67 lung scan; Lung scan; Gallium scan - lung; Scan - lung

How the Test is Performed

Gallium is injected into a vein. The scan will be taken 6 to 24 hours after the gallium is injected. (Test time depends on whether your condition is acute or chronic.)

During the test, you lie on a table that moves underneath a scanner called a gamma camera. The camera detects the radiation produced by the gallium. Images display on a computer screen.

During the scan, it is important that you keep still to get a clear image. The technician can help make you comfortable before the scan begins. The test takes about 30 to 60 minutes.

How to Prepare for the Test

Several hours to 1 day before the scan, you will get an injection of gallium at the place where the testing will be done.

Just before the scan, remove jewelry, dentures, or other metal objects that can affect the scan. Take off the clothing on the upper half of your body and put on a hospital gown.

How the Test will Feel

The injection of gallium will sting, and the puncture site may hurt for several hours or days when touched.

The scan is painless, but you must stay still. This may cause discomfort for some patients.

Why the Test is Performed

This test is usually done when you have signs of inflammation in the lungs, most often due to sarcoidosis or a certain type of pneumonia.

Normal Results

The lungs should appear of normal size and texture, and should take up very little gallium.

What Abnormal Results Mean

  • Sarcoidosis
  • Other respiratory infections, most often pneumocystis jirovecii pneumonia

Risks

There is some risk to children or unborn babies. Because a pregnant or nursing woman may pass on radiation, special precautions will be made.

For women who are not pregnant or nursing and for men, there is very little risk from the radiation in gallium, because the amount is very small. There are increased risks if you are exposed to radiation (such as x-rays, and scans) many times. Discuss any concerns you have about radiation with the health care provider who recommends the test.

Considerations

Usually the health care provider will recommend this scan based on the results of a chest x-ray. Small defects may not be visible on the scan. For this reason, this test is not often done anymore.

References

Gotway MB, Elicker BM. Radiographic techniques. In: Mason RJ, Broaddus CV, Martin TR, et al., eds. Murray & Nadel's Textbook of Respiratory Medicine. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2010:chap 19.

Stark P. Imaging in pulmonary disease. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 84.


Review Date: 8/30/2014
Reviewed By: Denis Hadjiliadis, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine, Pulmonary, Allergy, and Critical Care, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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