What is a DMSA renal (kidney) scan?
The DMSA renal scan is a nuclear medicine test that gives doctors detailed pictures not only of how the kidneys look, but how they are working. DMSA (dimercaptosuccinic acid) is a short-lived radioisotope that goes directly to the kidneys once inside the body and only stays radioactive for a few hours up to a day.
Using DMSA and a special camera, nuclear medicine doctors can see the kidneys and diagnose problems at their earliest stages. Although a bit different from traditional X-Rays and CT or MRI scans, nuclear medicine tests using radioisotopes like DMSA have about the same amount of radiation as other radiology tests.
Before the test begins, a radiology nurse will place an intravenous (IV) line in your arm, hand or foot. A tiny amount of the DMSA will be given through the IV, based on your weight.
You may be a bit uncomfortable for a moment when the IV is first placed.
- The DMSA injection is given through the IV. It takes at least 2 hours for the DMSA to be absorbed by the kidneys.
- If you are not having sedation, the IV will be removed after the DMSA injection is given.
- If you are having sedation, the IV may stay in place until it is time for the DMSA scan and may be used to give you the sedation medication.
- If sedation medication has been prescribed, you must not eat or drink anything until after the scan has been done.
- After about 2 hours, when the DMSA has been absorbed, detailed pictures will be taken of the size, shape and position of the kidneys. These pictures will give your doctor an idea of how well the kidneys are working and can show areas of the kidneys that may be infected or scarred from a previous infection.