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Oral Cholecystogram

What Is Oral Cholecystogram?

Oral cholecystogram is an X-ray examination of the gallbladder. The gallbladder is an organ located in the upper right-hand side of your abdominal cavity, just underneath the liver. It stores bile, a fluid that aids digestion.

"Oral" refers to the oral medication you take before the test. The medication is an iodine-based contrast agent that makes your gallbladder more clearly visible on the X-ray.

The oral cholecystogram study is used to diagnose problems related to the gallbladder. The X-ray can show inflammation of the organ, and other abnormalities like polyps, tumors, and gallstones.

Preparing for Oral Cholecystogram

Preparing for oral cholecystogram is a multistep process.

Two days before the test, you can eat normal meals. Some doctors might suggest eating a high-fat meal for breakfast or lunch, including fatty meats and cheese, whole milk products, or eggs. Bile helps you digest fats, and eating more fats than normal may help your doctor identify problems more easily.

Other doctors might ask you to follow your normal diet during this time period. Follow your doctor’s directions closely to ensure accurate test results.

Follow a low-fat diet the day before the oral cholecystogram. Ideal choices include:

  • chicken
  • fish
  • vegetables
  • fruits
  • bread
  • skim milk

The evening before the test, you’ll take the contrast agent medication. The medication is available in pill form. You’ll take a total of six pills that night, one each hour. Your doctor will tell you what time to take the first pill.

Take each dose of medication with a full glass of water. Don’t eat anything else after you’ve started taking the contrast agent.

Don’t eat or drink anything the morning of your oral cholecystogram. Ask your doctor ahead of time if you’re allowed to take routine medications, or if you must skip your dose.

If you’ve completed other gastrointestinal testing in the few days before your oral cholecystogram, your doctor may recommend an enema or laxative to clear your digestive tract. The contrast agents used in certain tests, like an upper gastrointestinal (GI) series or barium enema, can obscure your gallbladder. Clearing your bowels makes your gallbladder more visible.

Oral Cholecystogram Procedure

Oral cholecystogram is performed as an outpatient procedure while you’re awake. You might be given a special high-fat drink to stimulate your gallbladder to release bile, which can help your doctor identify problems.

The doctor will have you lie down on an exam table. Then, they’ll use an X-ray camera called a fluoroscope to see your gallbladder. You’ll be able to see what the doctor is seeing on a monitor. Your doctor will take X-rays throughout the examination.

Oral cholecystogram is painless. However, you might experience diarrhea and stomach cramping due to the contrast agent. You can go home after the procedure, as long as no complications arise.

Risks of Oral Cholecystogram

Risks associated with an oral cholecystogram are uncommon. Those who experience problems usually display a mild allergic reaction to the contrast agent. Symptoms can include a rash, itching, and nausea.

Breathing difficulties and swelling of the face or mouth can indicate a serious allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis can be life-threatening if not treated. Notify your doctor immediately if you experience wheezing, shortness of breath, or facial swelling after taking the preparatory medication.

The exposure to radiation during oral cholecystogram is low. Discuss this with your doctor before the test if you’re pregnant. Although radiation exposure is minimal, it may not be safe for your unborn child.

Results and Recovery

Your doctor will notify you of the results of the test and any treatments that may follow. For example, cancerous growths and gallstones that cause pain will be treated through medications or surgery. Benign polyps on the gallbladder and small gallstones may not require any further treatment.

Content licensed from:

Written by: Erica Roth
Medically reviewed on: Dec 17, 2015: Steven Kim, MD

This feature is for informational purposes only and should not be used to replace the care and information received from your health care provider. Please consult a health care professional with any health concerns you may have.
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