MIBG scan

Child getting a MIBG scan Child getting a MIBG scan  

What is a MIBG scan?

A MIBG scan is a scan to look for:

  • neuroblastoma, a tumour in the adrenal glands, neck, chest or spinal cord
  • pheochromocytoma, a tumour in the adrenal glands.

MIBG is a short name for a type of iodine that is used in the test.

How is the scan done?

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

  1. Your child will have an injection (needle) into a vein in their arm or the back of their hand.
  2. The next day, your child will return to the hospital for the scan.​


The injection contains a very small amount of radioactive medicine. This mixes with your child's blood and spreads throughout their body. It takes more than six hours for enough medicine to spread 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.


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

In rare cases, your child may need to return to the hospital the next day for more pictures. A doctor in the nuclear medicine department will tell you if your child needs to return.

How long will the scan take?

The scan takes about 90 minutes. The injection itself is given over a few minutes. Remember to allow an extra 30 minutes before the injection if your child is having a topical anaesthetic.

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

Your child can eat and drink as usual, but they will need to take Lugol's Solution (a type of iodine) the day before the injection and then continue taking it for the next two days. Your doctor will give you a prescription for the Lugol's. Because it has an unpleasant taste, it is best to mix it with juice or milk before giving it to your child.

Some children may need to be sedated (calmed with medicine) to help them stay still for the scan. If your child needs sedation, you will get other instructions.

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

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

Does the scan carry any risks?

A MIBG 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?

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 family doctor to get the results. You will not be able to get the results from the nuclear medicine technologist.

Key points

  • A MIBG scan is a test to look for tumours in the upper body. It is done in two parts, one day after another.
  • Your child will first have an injection that includes a tiny amount of radioactive medicine, which will mix with their blood and spread around their body. The next day, they will come back for the scan.
  • Your child will need to start taking Lugol's Solution the day before the injection. Your doctor will give you a prescription for this.
  • 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.​
​Mandy Kohli, Clinical Co-ordinator, Nuclear Medicine

​At SickKids

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.


Alliance for Radiation Safety in Pediatric Imaging (2013). Image Gently: Nuclear Medicine - What can I do as a parent?