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Abscess scan - radioactive

 

Definition

Radioactive abscess scan uses white blood cells tagged with a radioactive substances and x-rays to look for abnormal sites of inflammation in the body.

Alternative Names

Radioactive abscess scan; Abscess scan

How the test is performed

Blood is typically drawn from a vein, usually from the inside of the elbow or the back of the hand. The site is cleaned with germ-killing medicine (antiseptic). The health care provider wraps an elastic band around the upper arm to apply pressure to the area and make the vein swell with blood.

Next, the health care provider gently inserts a needle into the vein. The blood collects into an airtight vial or tube attached to the needle. The elastic band is removed from your arm.

Once the blood has been collected, the needle is removed, and the puncture site is covered to stop any bleeding.

The blood sample is then sent to the lab where they isolate the white blood cells (WBCs), and tag them with a radioactive substance called indium. The cells are then reinjected back into a vein in your body through another needle stick.

You will have an appointment to return after 24 - 48 hours for a nuclear medicine scan to determine if WBCs have gathered outside the liver, spleen and bone marrow.

How to prepare for the test

You must wear a hospital gown and remove all jewelry.

Tell the health care provider if you are pregnant. This procedure is NOT recommended if you are pregnant. If you are a women in childbearing years (before menopause), you should use some form of birth control during the course of this procedure.

You should also tell your health care provider if you have or had any of the following medical conditions, procedures, or treatments, as they can interfere with test results:

  • Gallium (Ga) scan within the previous month
  • Hemodialysis
  • Hyperglycemia
  • Total parenteral (through an IV) nutrition
  • Steroid therapy
  • Long-term antibiotic therapy
How the test will feel

When the needle is inserted to draw blood, some people feel moderate pain, while others feel only a prick or stinging sensation. Afterward, there may be some throbbing.

The nuclear medicine scan is painless. There may be some discomfort lying flat and still on the scanning table for a short period of time.

Why the test is performed

This test is used to identify an abscess in the body when a person has signs and symptoms of sepsis, or your health care provider wants to know the cause of surgical complications.

White blood cells are the body's means of fighting infection, and this test allows your health care provider to follow these cells and see if they are gathering around a site of infection. It is expected that there will be groupings of white blood cells in the liver, spleen, and bone marrow, but if groupings of cells exist elsewhere, an abscess or other inflammatory process is possible.

Normal Values

Normal findings would show no abnormal gathering of white blood cells.

What abnormal results mean

A gathering of white blood cells outside of the normal areas is a sign of either an abscess or other type of inflammatory process.

What the risks are
  • Some bruising may occur at the site of injection.
  • There is always a slight chance of infection when the skin is broken.
  • There is low-level radiation exposure.

Radioactive injections are monitored and controlled to provide the minimum amount of radiation exposure needed to produce the image. Most experts feel that the risk is very low compared with the benefits.

Pregnant women and children are more sensitive to the risks of the x-ray.


Review Date: 10/28/2008
Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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Maimonides Medical Center    |    4802 Tenth Avenue    |    Brooklyn, NY 11219    |    718.283.6000