GI Bleed Scan

What is it?

A Gastrointestinal (GI) Bleed Scan is done to investigate the location, frequency and extent of bleeding that may be occurring in the gastrointestinal tract.

Nuclear Medicine scans are performed using very small amounts of radioactive material. The radioactive material is usually bound to other non-radioactive elements. These combined elements are called "radionuclide". The radionuclide emit energy called "photons". Radionuclide can be directed to many organs and systems in the body. Once a radionuclide is distributed in an organ or system, the photon energy is collected by a "Gamma Camera". The Gamma Camera detects the pattern of distribution of the radionuclide in the body and sends this information to a computer. The computer processes the information and displays the information in the form of a picture.

Nuclear Medicine exams differ from other x-ray procedures because the energy (x-rays and photons) come from different sources. X-ray energy is created by the x-ray tube and pass through the body. Another major difference is that Nuclear Medicine exams best demonstrate body physiology (system function), whereas x-rays show anatomical detail.

What will happen to me?

The Nuclear Medicine Technologist will take some blood out of your vein, usually from your arm vein. Your blood is mixed with a special radionuclide and is then injected back into your vein. To start the scan, the technologist will position you on a flat table and will place you under the Gamma Camera. The Gamma Camera will be very close to you to obtain the best picture. Pictures are made during the injection and every few minutes after the injection for about one (1) hour.

How long will it take?

It will take 20 - 30 minutes to prepare you for the exam after you arrive. It will then take one hour to collect the first pictures. Sometimes delayed pictures are need because GI bleeding can occur intermittently. You may have to come back for follow up pictures. Usually four (4) hours and/or 24 hours after the first visit. Delayed pictures do not require a second injection and are completed in 20 - 30 minutes.

What will I feel, will it hurt?

You may feel a slight pinprick in the vein of your arm when the blood is withdrawn and re-injected. You will not feel any effects from the radionuclide injection. When your scan is begun, you will need to lay flat on a table. You will need to lay very still while the scan is being performed so that the best picture can be made. You will not feel any effects from the Gamma Camera. It does not create radiation, it only detects the radiation coming from the injected radionuclide. The Gamma Camera is a large machine that collects the emitted photons from the radionuclide but produces very little sound. The Gamma Camera must be very close to you to obtain the best pictures. The radiation will totally disappear from your body in about two (2) days. The radiation exposure you receive for the scan is no more than from a routine x-ray procedure.

What will the test show?

The radionuclide is distributed throughout your body in your blood stream. If any areas of bleeding occur, the radionuclide will collect with the blood in these area and be seen on the pictures.

How do I get ready?

You can not eat or drink for at least four (4) hours before your exam. Just before the start of your scan, you should empty your bladder so that you are as comfortable as possible during the exam. You should remove any metal such as belt buckle, coins, keys, etc., since these may interfere with the pictures.