DMSA Renal Scan

A DMSA renal scan is a nuclear medicine test used to make images of the kidneys that helps doctors identify areas of damage to the kidney. There are no dietary or activity restrictions before or after the test. Because the test may take several hours to complete, family are encouraged to bring toys and books from home for the child.

What is a DMSA renal scan?

A DMSA renal scan is a nuclear medicine imaging test that helps doctors look at the position, size, shape, scarring and function of the kidneys. The test uses Technetium-99m DSMA (dimercapto succinic acid). This is a radioisotope that is given to the child through an IV prior to the scan. Several hours after the DSMA is injected, a special camera is used to take pictures of the kidneys. This part of the test make take about 45 minutes. This test can be very useful in determine if there is scarring in the kidneys after episodes of pyelonephritis or in children with vesicoureteral reflux.

What happens during a DMSA renal scan?

A DMSA renal scan visit takes place in two parts during one day.

  • First, a specialist uses a small IV is placed to inject a small amount of DMSA into the child. The IV is removed and the child is allowed to leave the hospital for two to four hours. This allows time for the DMSA to be absorbed into the kidneys.
  • Upon returning to the hospital, toilet-trained children are asked to use the restroom. All children must then remove any metal objects including glasses and may be asked to wear a hospital gown. The child will then lie still while a camera takes pictures of the kidneys. This normally takes about 45 minutes. A parent or guardian may stay with the child during this time.

Is a DMSA renal scan safe?

At CHOC Children’s, we are committed to exposing our patients to the lowest doses of radiation possible during all of our procedures.

  • Nuclear medicine has been used on infants and children for over 40 years with no known adverse effects from the low doses employed.
  • DMSA does contain a very small amount of radioactive molecules.
  • The camera used to obtain the images does not produce any radiation.

How do I learn the results of the DMSA renal scan?

Once the test has been completed, the child’s family will be notified with the results within two weeks. If you have not heard from our office with test results please call us at (714) 509-3919. If the study was done at a different facility please contact our office upon its completion so we may obtain the results to review for you.