In gallium scan, you are given an intravenous injection of a radioactive form of gallium (gallium-67), and a special camera records the movement and uptake of this radioactive material throughout your body. The camera data are then translated by computer into two-dimensional images that are recorded on film.

Gallium-67 tends to concentrate in areas of inflammation and infection, abscesses, and benign and malignant tumors. The recorded images will show any areas of unusual gallium concentration that may require further investigation.

Purpose of the Gallium Scan

  • To detect primary and metastatic cancers and inflammatory lesions
  • To evaluate malignant lymphoma and identify tumors that recurs after chemotherapy or radiation therapy
  • To determine the stage of lymphomas and lung cancer
  • To monitor the response to treatment for infection, inflammation, or tumor
  • To clarify focal defects (areas that appear altered due to disease) in the liver
  • To determine the source of an infection of unknown origin that is causing fever or determine if an infection has spread to another part of the body
  • To monitor and evaluate antibiotic treatment

Who Performs Gallium Scan

Special Concerns about Gallium Scan

  • Nuclear imaging tests should not be performed in pregnant or breastfeeding women because of possible risks to the fetus or infant.
  • This procedure should be performed before any barium contrast x-rays of the digestive tract because the presence of residual barium may impair visualization of gallium activity in the bowel.
  • Uptake of the radioactive gallium by the liver and spleen may prevent the detection of abnormal lymph nodes near the aorta in patients with Hodgkin’s disease, leading to false-negative results.

Before the Gallium Scan

  • A laxative or a cleansing enema is usually administered prior to the scan to minimize increased gallium uptake within the bowel.
  • You will be asked to disrobe above the waist and put on a hospital gown. Remove any jewelry, dentures, or other metal objects that could affect the scan.
  • Tell your doctor if you are pregnant or breastfeeding or if you may be pregnant.

What You Experience during Gallium Scan

  • A technologist will inject the radioactive gallium into a vein in your hand or arm.
  • About 4 to 6 hours later, a total-body scan may be performed.
  • You will lie on a table and a large scanning camera, which detects the gamma rays being emitted by the radioactive gallium, is slowly passed over your body.
  • The images provided by the camera are recorded on film.
  • Additional scans are taken periodically, usually 24, 48, and 72 hours after the injection of gallium.
  • During the scanning process, you will be asked to assume different positions, including lying on your back, stomach, and side.
  • Each scan usually takes about 30 to 60 minutes to perform.

Risks and Complications of Gallium Scan

  • The trace amount of radioactive material used in this test is not associated with any risks or complications.

After the Gallium Scan

  • You are free to leave and resume your normal activities.
  • Drink extra fluids to help your body eliminate the radioactive gallium.
  • Blood may collect and clot under the skin (hematoma) at the injection site; this is harmless and will resolve on its own. For a large hematoma that causes swelling and discomfort, apply ice initially; after 24 hours, use warm, moist compresses to help dissolve the clotted blood.

Results of Gallium Scan

  • A physician will analyze the recorded images for evidence of a suspected disorder.
  • If a definitive diagnosis can be made based on these images, appropriate therapy will be initiated, depending on the specific problem.
  • In some cases, additional diagnostic imaging tests, such as a CT scan, ultrasound, or a PET scan, may be necessary to clarify the results.


The Johns Hopkins Consumer Guide to Medical Tests

Simeon Margolis, M.D., Ph.D., Medical Editor

Updated by Remedy Health Media

Publication Review By: the Editorial Staff at

Published: 13 Jan 2012

Last Modified: 19 Mar 2015