Radiology (Xray)

Ultrasound Scan Gallbladder Function Test

RVI Radiology Appointments 0191 282 4330; Freeman Hospital Radiology Appointments 0191 223 1012

What is a gallbladder function ultrasound scan?Show [+]Hide [-]

  • An ultrasound scan is an examination in which sound waves (not heard by the human ear) are used to create a picture of organs within the body.  The picture can provide accurate information about the size, structure and movement of many parts of the body. This test is specifically performed to look at the size of your gallbladder before and after you have something to eat. This will provide information about whether is it working properly or not.

Why do I need a gallbladder function ultrasound scan?Show [+]Hide [-]

  • Most people come for a gallbladder function test because they have pain in their abdomen which may or may not be related to eating fatty food. The gallbladder produces something called bile which helps your body absorb fat. If the gallbladder is not working properly this can be the cause of pain, and this test helps to decide if this is the reason for your symptoms

Who performs the scan?Show [+]Hide [-]

  • Your scan will be performed by either a radiologist (medical doctor who specialises in interpreting diagnostic imaging) or a sonographer who is trained in ultrasound scanning.  Whoever performs your scan will explain what happens and will show you what to do.

Do I need any special preparation before the examination?Show [+]Hide [-]

  • You will need to be starved for a minimum of six hours with only clear fluids to drink e.g. water, black tea or coffee.  Printed instructions will be given to you in your appointment letter which outlines this further. You also need to bring a standard sized Mars Bar with you.

I have diabetes. Does this change anything?Show [+]Hide [-]

  • No. We will still perform the examination but will try to give you an early appointment.

What does the examination involve?Show [+]Hide [-]

  • On arrival you may be asked to undress and put on a hospital gown. 
  • Once in the examination room, you will lie on a couch next to the ultrasound machine. 
  • A radiologist (specialist imaging doctor) or sonographer (specialist ultrasound radiographer) will perform the scan by placing a small amount of clear gel onto the skin and gently running a small probe (like a microphone) over the skin surface.
  • You may be asked to change your position slightly, and hold your breath from time to time. 
  • The doctor who arranged for you to have this examination has asked the radiologist or sonographer to consider performing a gallbladder function test. This involves a 3D measurement of the size of your gallbladder.
  • You will then be asked to eat a fatty snack (usually in the form of a Mars bar). The gallbladder will then be measured again after 20 minutes and 40 minutes to see if it has reduced in size. 
  • The radiologist or sonographer will answer any questions you have about the gallbladder function test at the time. If you have concerns before the test, please telephone the radiology department on:
  • RVI X-ray Appointments               0191 282 4330 (Monday to Friday 8.30am-5.00pm)
  • Freeman X-ray Appointments     0191 223 1012 (Monday to Friday 8.30am-5.00pm)

How does it feel?Show [+]Hide [-]

  • In order to perform your scan it will be necessary to apply a small amount of gel to the skin surface in the area being examined.  This gel dissolves in water and will not stain your clothing.  The procedure may be a little uncomfortable but should not be painful

How long will the scan take?Show [+]Hide [-]

  • The ultrasound and gallbladder function test will generally take approximately 45 minutes, however it does vary and you may be in the Radiology Department for around one hour or more, as there may be a short wait before the examination.

Can I drive home?Show [+]Hide [-]

  • Having a gallbladder function test is extremely safe and complications are rare, but staff will check how you are feeling following the procedure. There is no reason why you cannot drive home afterwards.

Are there any after effects?Show [+]Hide [-]

  • After effects from this test are rare. Sometimes eating fatty food when the gallbladder isn’t working properly can cause pain, but if this happens it is likely to be mild. The team will ask how you are feeling during the test to make sure you are looked after well.

What are the benefits of having an ultrasound gallbladder function test?Show [+]Hide [-]

  • Measuring how much the gallbladder reduces in size after a fatty meal gives valuable information about how well it functions. This additional information can be combined with the clinical and ultrasound features to make an accurate diagnosis.

What are the risks of having an ultrasound gallbladder function test?Show [+]Hide [-]

  • Ultrasound is considered to be a harmless method of investigating the body. There are no known side-effects from diagnostic ultrasound scanning.  Sometimes people get abdominal pain after eating a fatty meal, but the radiologist or sonographer will discuss this with you in more detail at the time of the examination.

When will I get the results?Show [+]Hide [-]

  • Normally you can expect to receive the results of your scan when you next see the doctor who sent you for the examination.  After your examination, the radiologist or sonographer who performed the scan will study the pictures taken during your examination.  A report is then prepared and this is sent to your doctor who asked for the examination.  The report is normally sent out within one week.

I need an ambulance/ transport. Do you arrange it?Show [+]Hide [-]

  • If you need an ambulance/ transport, you should ask your GP Surgery to arrange it. You will need to give them three working days’ notice.  Please note that hospital transport is provided on medical need only.

What if I cannot attend for my appointment? Show [+]Hide [-]

  • If your appointment time is not convenient please contact the hospital department so that a more appropriate time can be arranged.  This will enable us to reallocate valuable scanning time to someone else:
  • RVI X-ray Appointments               0191 282 4330 (Monday to Friday 8.30am-5.00pm)
  • Freeman X-ray Appointments     0191 223 1012 (Monday to Friday 8.30am-5.00pm)

What if I have any comments, suggestions or complaints?Show [+]Hide [-]

  • Should you have any suggestions or concerns, please make these known to the person conducting your examination or by letter addressed to the hospital that you are attending your examination:
  • The Departmental Manager, X-ray Department, Level 3, Royal Victoria Infirmary, Queen Victoria Road, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 4LP
  • The Departmental Manager, Main X-ray Department, Freeman Hospital, High Heaton, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE7 7DN
  • Tel: 0191 282 1099
  • Monday to Friday 8.30am to 5.00pm
  • All Newcastle Hospitals: Switchboard tel: 0191 233 6161 (24 hours)
  • The Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS) can offer on-the-spot advice and information about the NHS. You can contact them on freephone 0800 032 02 02 or email
  • Information produced by Dr M A F McNeill, Consultant Radiologist and Mr B Stenberg, Consultant Sonographer.

Diagnostic Imaging DatasetShow [+]Hide [-]

  • Information from your diagnostic test will contribute to the Diagnostic Imaging Dataset. 
  • The Diagnostic Imaging Dataset (DID) is a database that holds information on the imaging tests and scans carried out on NHS patients. This will allow the Health and Social Care Information Centre to see how different tests are used across the country.
  • Nothing will ever be reported that identifies you.  All information is stored securely. It is only made available to appropriate staff, and is kept strictly confidential. However, if you do not want your information to be stored in the DID, please tell the people who are treating you. They will make sure your information is not copied into the DID.
  • You may, at a later date, still decide to opt out.  Please contact the Health and Social Care Information Centre directly, their contact details are:
  • Telephone: 0845 300 6016 
  • Email: 
  • Website:
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