The role of morphine-augmented cholescintigraphy and real-time ultrasound in detecting gallbladder disease

Mordechai Lorberboym, Julietta Simon, Tifha Horne

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: Rapid diagnosis of acute cholecystitis is essential to minimize morbidity and mortality. The purpose of this study was to assess the diagnostic utility of cholescintigraphy using morphine augmentation compared with ultrasound, in acute and chronic gallbladder disease. Methods: Cholescintigrams were performed on 103 patients suspected of having acute cholecystitis. In 79 patients (Group A) morphine sulfate was administered to reduce the scintigraphic imaging time if the gallbladder was not visualized during the first hour. In 24 control patients (Group B) no morphine was administered. All patients were evaluated clinically and 93 patients had concurrent ultrasound examination. Results: The clinical presentation was nonspecific. The ultrasound findings were sensitive in detecting gallbladder disease (100%), but had low specificity (24%). Only findings of sediments and pericholecystic fluid were specific for cystic duct obstruction. Morphine augmentation reduced the imaging time by 126 min in patients with chronic cholecystitis. Conclusion: Real-time ultrasound has low specificity for gallbladder disease. In the presence of an abnormal ultrasound, it is essential to perform a hepatobiliary scan, either to exclude gallbladder disease or distinguish acute from chronic cholecystitis. Low-dose morphine administration is a safe and useful adjunct to standard cholescintigraphy by substantially reducing the time required to obtain a diagnostic study.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)294-297
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of Nuclear Medicine Technology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1999
Externally publishedYes


  • Acute cholecystitis
  • Chronic cholecystitis
  • Morphine-augmented cholescintigraphy
  • Ultrasound in gallbladder disease


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