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Gallium Scan

  • A Gallium scan is a nuclear medicine test used to detect certain cancer and infections.

    How Boston Children's Hospital approaches Gallium scans

    Our Division of Nuclear Medicine is committed to providing families with a safe, comfortable and child-friendly atmosphere with:

    • specialized nuclear medicine physicians with expertise in interpreting Gallium scans in children of all ages

    • certified nuclear medicine technologists with years of experience imaging children and teens

    • Child Life specialists to help families prior to and during exams

    • equipment designed adapted for pediatric use, which means age-appropriate care for children

    • protocols that keep radiation exposure as low as reasonably achievable while assuring high image quality

  • What is a Gallium scan?

    • A Gallium scan is a diagnostic imaging exam that detects infection, inflammatory diseases or tumors.

    • A radiopharmaceutical called Gallium-67 is injected into your child's veins through an IV a few days prior to the scan.

    • The radiopharmaceutical travels into the body's tissues, primarily the bones, liver, intestine and areas of tissue where inflammation or a buildup of white blood cells is present. This can take a few days.

    • A special camera, called a gamma camera, is used to take pictures. Areas where the tracer builds up in higher-than-normal amounts show up as bright or "hot" spots in the pictures.

    When might a Gallium scan be needed?

    A Gallium scan can help detect or monitor:              

    • the source of infection that is causing a fever
    • abscesses or infections of the bone
    • responses to antibiotic treatment
    • inflammatory conditions
    • certain types of cancer

    How should I prepare my child for a Gallium scan?

    There is no special preparation needed for this test. Your child can eat or drink as usual.

    • It is helpful to give your child a simple explanation as to why a Gallium scan is needed and assure him or her that you will be with him or her for the entire time.

    • You may want to bring your child's favorite book, toy or comforting object to use during waiting times.

    • We have various videos or DVDs to choose from for your child to watch during the procedure or you can bring one from home.

    The first appointment is for your child's injection only. The second appointment is two to three days later. Imaging during the second appointment can take between two and three hours.

    What should I expect when I bring my child to the hospital for a Gallium scan?

    When you arrive, please go to the Nuclear Medicine check-in desk on the second floor of the main hospital or the first floor check-in desk at our Waltham facility. A clinical intake coordinator will check your child in and verify her registration information.

    What happens during a Gallium scan?

    A Gallium scan consists of two different appointments. The first appointment is for the injection of the radiopharmaceutical and the second is for the actual imaging.

    First appointment - injection of the radiopharmaceutical:

    • You will be greeted by one of our nuclear medicine technologists who will explain to you and your child what will happen during the study.

    • A tiny of the radioisotope called will be injected into one of your child's veins through a small needle.

    • When your child's injection is complete, you and your child will be free to leave the department.

    • The technologist will confirm the day and time to return for imaging, which is typically two to three days after the injection.

    Second appointment - the Gallium scan:

    • When you return for the second appointment, your child will be asked to void/use the bathroom.

    • Your child may be asked to change into hospital pajamas and will need to remove jewelry, eyeglasses and any other metal objects that could interfere with the scan.

    • Your child will lie on the table and a large camera will be positioned above him or her.

    • The camera may move slowly around your child's body as pictures are taken.

    • It is important that your child remains still during the imaging in order to obtain the best quality images possible. Motion will degrade the images and the test will need to be repeated.

    • Your child may be asked to move into different positions so the area of interest can be viewed from other angles.

    • You will be able to stay with your child for the entire time.

    • When the imaging is complete, the technologist will inform you if a follow-up imaging appointment is necessary to observe bowel clearance.

    The average imaging time is two to three hours.

    Will my child feel anything during a Gallium scan?

    Your child may experience some discomfort associated with the insertion of the intravenous needle. The needle used for the procedure is small. Once the radiopharmaceutical is injected, the needle is withdrawn and a gauze bandage with adhesive tape is placed over the site of the injection. The area where the injection was given may be a little sore.

    Although the camera used to take pictures may appear large and intimidating, it does not touch your child.

    Is a Gallium scan safe?

    We are committed to ensuring that your child receives the smallest radiation dose needed to obtain the desired result.

    • Nuclear medicine has been used on babies and children for more than 40 years with no known adverse effects from the low doses employed.

    • The radiopharmaceutical contains a very tiny amount of radioactive molecules, but we believe that the benefit to your child's health outweighs potential radiation risk.

    • The camera used to obtain the images does not produce any radiation.

    What happens after the Gallium scan?

    Once the Gallium scan is complete, our specialists evaluate the images for quality. If the scan is adequate, your child will be free to leave and resume normal activity.

    One of the Children's nuclear medicine physicians will review your child's images and create a report of the findings and diagnosis.

    How do I learn the results of the Gallium scan?

    The nuclear medicine physician will provide a report to the doctor who ordered your child's Gallium scan. Your child's doctor will then discuss the results with you.

  • Safety

    Because nuclear medicine procedures involve small amounts of radiation, we are committed to ensuring that your child receives the lowest possible dose needed to obtain the high-quality images needed for accurate diagnosis and treatment.

    Our physicians and physicists are leaders in adjusting equipment and procedures to deliver low doses appropriate to children. We are part of the Image Gently Campaign and the Pediatric Imaging Council of the Society of Nuclear Medicine; we helped develop Image Gently guidelines so hospitals across the country can minimize children's exposure to radiation during medical procedures. We helped to write a brochure for parents available here.

    From the lab to the clinic

    Physicians and scientists in our research laboratories are working to develop new agents for the diagnosis and treatment of pediatric diseases. Our Small Animal Imaging Laboratory has a research PET scanner, called the microPET, which was the first of its kind to be installed at a pediatric hospital. The scanner helps scientists investigate mechanisms of disease and develop and refine new nuclear medicine imaging techniques.

  • Location  Address  Contact 
     Boston Boston Children's Hospital
    300 Longwood Avenue
    Boston MA 02115 
    617-355-7010 
    fax: 617-730-0623 
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