What Is a T-Tube Cholangiogram?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Nancy Fann-Im
  • Last Modified Date: 20 September 2019
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A t-tube cholangiogram is a medical imaging study to evaluate the bile ducts for signs of stones and blockages after surgery on the region. This procedure allows a surgeon to check on a patient's recovery, and to determine if any additional actions are necessary. It usually takes approximately 30 minutes and comes with low risks for the patient. Some patients prefer to do the test in the morning, as it requires fasting, and it may be easier to skip breakfast and attend the appointment than to control food intake later in the day.

In surgery on the gallbladder and the surrounding area, the surgeon may decide to place a drain known as a t-tube to limit the formation of blockages in the future, especially if the gallbladder is removed. During a t-tube cholangiogram, a technician can inject dye into the drain and monitor it as it moves through the body. This can allow a doctor to identify areas of blockage, stones, or other issues that might pose a risk to the patient's health. T-tube cholangiography typically takes place in an imaging center where technicians have access to all the supplies they need.


To prepare for a t-tube cholangiogram, the patient will need to fast for four hours, and may receive other special directions, depending on specific health issues. The patient should discuss any history of allergies before the test, as some contrast agents can cause allergic reactions. During the test itself, the patient needs to lie still, and may be provided with pillows and blankets as props to get into a comfortable position.

The primary risk of a t-tube cholangiogram is an allergic reaction to the contrast agent. Patients could also develop soreness and infections around the site of the injection used to introduce the contrast. During the test, patients should report any discomfort they experience, including itching, burning, or other sensations around the injection site. These could be signs of an allergy, and the patient may need monitoring and treatment.

Results from a t-tube cholangiogram are usually returned very quickly. The doctor can discuss any findings with the patient, and talk about options if the test shows an issue like a stone. It may be necessary to perform an endoscopy procedure to remove it if it poses a risk to the patient's health. Patients with a history of gallbladder surgery may want to make sure the results of their most recent t-tube cholangiogram are in their charts, so doctors know when the test was last performed and what the results were.


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