Nuclear Medicine Procedures: Hepatobiliary or Gallbladder EF Scan


A hepatobiliary or gallbladder ejection fraction (GBEF) scan is used to determine if a patient has acute or chronic cholecystitis. The patient receives an injection of a radiopharmaceutical and lies under a gamma camera, which makes serial images from emitted gamma radiation. The scan obtains images of the liver, gallbladder and small bowel. The procedure takes about 90 minutes.


The patient will lie on a table and an IV catheter is placed in an arm. Before the scan begins, the patient will receive a dose of cholecystokinin (CCK) to clean out the gallbladder or cystic duct.

After five minutes, the radiopharmaceutical is injected and the scan begins. After 45 minutes, a second dose of CCK is administered to cause the full gallbladder to contract. If the gallbladder does not appear in the scan, a small dose of morphine will be administered to constrict the sphincter of Oddi (a muscle located at the surface of the duodenum). The entire procedure takes about 90 minutes.


The patient may take nothing by mouth for two hours prior to the procedure. 


The exam table's weight limit is 300 pounds. Patients who have had previous nuclear medicine exams may need to wait a few days before receiving a hepatobiliary/GBEF scan, depending on the isotope received in the previous exam. Patients who are allergic to morphine must tell the technologist to make sure it's not administered.


Hepatobiliary/GBEF scans can be done on an emergency basis 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Outpatient procedures are scheduled every hour from 7 a.m. - 3 p.m. Monday through Friday at the main hospital campus, our Westwood campus and The University of Kansas Cancer Center - South location.

Clinical Considerations

Hepatobiliary/GBEF scans determine whether the patient has acute or chronic cholecystitis. The second dose of CCK administered during the scan allows us to calculate the gallbladder ejection fraction. This helps us to determine if the gallbladder is contracting normally.

Sedation Considerations

Patients cannot be sedated to receive a hepatobiliary/GBEF scan.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does a hepatobiliary/GBEF scan make me radioactive?

You receive a tiny amount of radiopharmaceutical. Usually, it loses its radioactivity within hours, and will pass out of the body within 24 hours.

Do hepatobiliary/GBEF scans hurt?

Other than the minor discomfort of a needle stick, hepatobiliary/GBEF scans are painless.

Who should not get a hepatobiliary/GBEF scan?

Generally, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not receive this procedure. It is safe for most other patients.

Physician Spotlight

Melissa Parkhurst, MD

Clinical Focus
Hospitalized Patients

Online Health Library