DMSA renal scan

DMSA renal scan     DMSA renal scan  

What is a DMSA renal scan?

A DMSA renal scan is a test to look at your child's kidneys and how they work. DMSA is the short name for the small amount of radioactive medicine that is used for this test.

How is the scan done?

The scan is done by a nuclear medicine technologist. It has two parts.

  1. Your child will be given a small needle (injection) into a vein in their arm or the back of their hand.
  2. The technologist will do a scan to take pictures of your child's kidneys.


The injection contains a very small amount of radioactive medicine. This mixes with your child's blood and will go to their kidneys. It takes two or three hours for enough medicine to collect in the kidneys before the pictures are taken.

Note: The injection before the scan is not painful, but your child's hand or arm can still be numbed first with a topical anaesthetic (a special cream or cooling spray). If you would like this option, it is best to arrive at least 30 minutes before your appointment to allow the anaesthetic to take effect.

Kidney location
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Most people have two kidneys, one on each side of the spine. They are found just under the rib cage towards the back of the body.


Your child will lie down on a narrow table and a safety belt will go across their stomach to keep them safely in place. They can usually watch a movie while the scan is being done.

Must my child stay in the hospital between the injection and the DMSA scan?

Your child can leave the hospital after the injection, but they must return for the scan at the time given by the technologist.

How long does the DMSA renal scan take?

The DMSA renal scan takes three to four hours in total. This includes the time to inject your child, waiting time after the injection, and about an hour for the scan itself. Please add half an hour to the total time if your child has a topical anaesthetic first.

Does my child need to do anything special to prepare for the scan?

No, your child can eat and drink as usual.

Some children need a blood or urine test before the scan. Your doctor's office will tell you if your child needs one.

Will I be able to stay with my child during the scan?

One parent or guardian may stay in the room during the scan, but no other children are allowed.

Does the scan carry any risks?

A DMSA renal scan involves giving a very small amount of radiation to your child. The nuclear medicine team will discuss this with you when you and your child arrive for the scan. You might also find it helpful to read this information about nuclear medicine from the Alliance for Radiation Safety in Pediatric Imaging.

When are the results available?

DMSA scan of the kidneys
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A nuclear medicine doctor will send a report to your family doctor or paediatrician (child's doctor) within one or two working days of the scan. Please contact your doctor to get the results. You will not be able to get the results from the nuclear medicine technologist.

Key points

  • A DMSA renal scan is a test to look at how the kidneys are working. It takes three to four hours in total.
  • Your child will first be injected with a very small amount of radioactive medicine, which will mix with their blood and go to their kidneys. After two to three hours, they will have the scan.
  • A nuclear medicine doctor will send the results of the scan to your family doctor or paediatrician (child's doctor) within two working days. The person who does the scan cannot give the results.
​M​andy Kohli, Clinical Co-ordinator, Nuclear Medicine

​At SickKids

If your child needs a blood test before the DMSA scan, it can be done in the Ambulatory Centre on the main floor near Shoppers Drug Mart. Please arrive at the hospital early to allow enough time for the test and be on time for the DMSA renal scan.​​​

If you have any questions or concerns about the scan or if you need to change your appointment, please call the Nuclear Medicine Department at 416 813 6065.