(Gallbladder Series, GB Series, Oral Cholecystography, Oral Cholecystogram, X-rays of the Gallbladder)
Cholecystography is an x-ray procedure used to examine the gallbladder when gallstones are suspected. A contrast dye is swallowed prior to the procedure. The contrast dye allows for better visualization of gallstones and other abnormalities of the gallbladder that cannot be seen on a standard x-ray of the abdomen.
X-rays use invisible electromagnetic energy beams to produce images of internal tissues, bones, and organs on film. X-rays are made by using external radiation to produce images of the body, its organs, and other internal structures for diagnostic purposes. X-rays pass through body structures onto specially-treated plates (similar to camera film) and a "negative" type picture is made (the more solid a structure is, the whiter it appears on the film).
Contrast dye, when swallowed prior to the cholecystogram, causes the gallbladder to appear opaque on a cholecystogram x-ray film. Gallstones will appear as dark spots within the gallbladder or bile ducts. Depending on how well the contrast dye has been absorbed, polyps and tumors may also be visible on the x-ray film.
Due to the development of improved technology, cholecystography is no longer performed routinely. Ultrasound and computed tomography (CT scans) are faster and often more accurate in diagnosing conditions of the gallbladder.
Other related procedures that may be used to diagnose problems of the gallbladder include abdominal x-rays, CT scan of the liver and biliary tract, abdominal ultrasound, endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP), and gallbladder nuclear scans. Please see these procedures for additional information.
Gallstones form when bile stored in the gallbladder hardens into stone-like material. Too much cholesterol, bile salts, or bilirubin (bile pigment) can cause gallstones. Slow emptying of the gallbladder can also contribute to the formation of gallstones.
When gallstones are present in the gallbladder itself, it is called cholelithiasis. When gallstones are present in the bile ducts, it is called choledocholithiasis. Gallstones that obstruct bile ducts can lead to severe or life-threatening infection of the bile ducts, pancreas, or liver. Bile ducts can also be obstructed by cancer or trauma.
There are two types of gallstones: cholesterol stones and pigment stones. Eighty percent of gallstones are cholesterol stones. The size of gallstones varies from a grain of salt to golf-ball size. A person can develop a single stone or several stones.
At first, most gallstones do not cause symptoms. However, when gallstones become larger, or when they begin obstructing bile ducts, symptoms or "attacks" begin to occur. Attacks of gallstones usually occur after a fatty meal and at night. The following are the most common symptoms of gallstones. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include, but are not limited to, the following:
The symptoms of gallstones may resemble other medical conditions or problems. Always consult your physician for a diagnosis.
Cholecystography may be performed when signs and symptoms of gallbladder disease, such as right upper quadrant abdominal pain, jaundice, and intolerance of fat in the diet are present. These symptoms may indicate the presence of gallstones or other obstructions in the gallbladder and/or bile ducts.
In addition to gallstones and obstruction of the bile ducts, other conditions that may be detected by cholecystography include, but are not limited to, polyps, tumors, inflammation, infection, and nonfunctioning gallbladder.
There may be other reasons for your physician to recommend cholecystography.
You may want to ask your physician about the amount of radiation used during the procedure and the risks related to your particular situation. It is a good idea to keep a record of your past history of radiation exposure, such as previous scans and other types of x-rays, so that you can inform your physician. Risks associated with radiation exposure may be related to the cumulative number of x-ray examinations and/or treatments over a long period of time.
If you are pregnant or suspect that you may be pregnant, you should notify your physician. Radiation exposure during pregnancy may lead to birth defects.
If contrast dye is used, there is a risk for allergic reaction to the dye. Patients who are allergic to or sensitive to medications, contrast dye, or iodine should notify their physician.
Patients with kidney failure or other kidney problems should notify their physician. In some cases, the contrast dye can cause kidney failure, especially if the person is taking Glucophage (a diabetic medication).
Patients with liver disease or other liver damage should notify their physician, as impaired liver function decreases the usefulness of the contrast dye.
There may be other risks depending upon your specific medical condition. Be sure to discuss any concerns with your physician prior to the procedure.
Certain factors or conditions may interfere with the results of the test. These factors include, but are not limited to, the following:
Cholecystography may be performed on an outpatient basis or as part of your stay in a hospital. Procedures may vary depending on your condition and your physician's practices.
Generally, cholecystography follows this process:
The radiologist will look at the x-ray films before you leave to ensure that the gallbladder was adequately visualized during the procedure. If the x-rays are inadequate, the test may need to be repeated.
Generally, there is no special type of care following cholecystography. However, your physician may give you additional or alternate instructions after the procedure, depending on your particular situation.
Because the contrast dye is excreted from the body through the kidneys, you may feel some slight discomfort with urination for a day or so.
The content provided here is for informational purposes only, and was not designed to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease, or replace the professional medical advice you receive from your physician. Please consult your physician with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your condition.
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