Indium Scan of the Body

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Indium Scan of the Body


An indium scan of the body scanning is a procedure in which a patient's white blood cells are first labeled with the radioactive substance indium, and then the patient's body is scanned as a way of tracking the white blood cells at the site of possible infection.


The procedure is used to detect inflammatory processes in the body such as infections. By labeling the leukocytes (white blood cells), radiologists or nuclear medicine specialists can then watch their migration toward an abscess or other infection.


The only risk during this scanning procedure could be to a patient who is pregnant, as with any type of injectable radioactive substance. If the woman is pregnant, the radiologist must be notified. If a scan is necessary, the radiologist may use a lower dosage of indium.


A nuclear medicine technologist withdraws about 50 ml. of blood. White blood cells are collected, exposed to indium, and re-injected by IV back into the patient.

The scan is scheduled for between 18 and 24 hours after the white blood cells have been labeled with indium. In some cases, additional scanning may be scheduled 48 hours after labeling. For the scan, the patient lies on a special scanning table. Either a single camera underneath the table or two cameras (one above the table and one underneath) are placed as close as possible to the body. These cameras record radiation as they slowly scanning the person's body. The radiologist may need extra pictures, but these take only a few minutes each. While the patient must remain perfectly still during the scan, there should be no discomfort.


After the white blood cells are drawn, labeled and re-injected, there is no additional preparation required for this procedure.


After the scan, the patient should be able to continue with normal daily activities with no problems.


No complications are expected from this procedure.


When results are normal, the scan should reveal no infection or pathology. Because white blood cells are drawn to the site of an infection, abnormal results will show patches of radioactive cells that can reveal details, such as size and location of the infection in the patient's body.

Health care team roles

The nurse or other health care team member will draw the patient's blood so that the white blood cells can be labeled, and will re-inject the labeled cells. A nuclear medicine technologist will perform the scan. A radiologist will interpret the scan.


Indium— A silvery metallic element with some nonmetallic chemical properties used to label white blood cells prior to scanning.

Leukocyte— A white blood cell that protects the body against infection and fight infection when it occurs. They are bigger than red blood cells.



Goldsby, Richard A., et al. Immunology. New York: W.H. Freeman, 2003.

Marion, Joseph B. Indium: New Mineral Discover of the 21st Century. Woodstock, CT: Information Pioneers Publisher, 2003.

Veskler, Barbara A., ed. Focus on Immunology Research. New York: Nova Science Publishers, 2006.