DMSA scan

A DMSA (dimercaptosuccinic acid) scan looks at how well one of your kidneys is working, compared to the other one. It is also used to see if there are any signs of scarring to the kidneys.

The results of this scan give your doctors more information about your condition, and help them to plan your treatment.

DMSA scans are done in our nuclear medicine department, using a gamma camera.

Preparing for a DMSA scan

There is no special preparation for this scan. You can eat, drink and take any medicines as normal. We will ask you to keep well hydrated by drinking more than usual, between the injection and the scan. A staff member will give you more details when you come in for your scan.

You should be prepared to be at the hospital for up to 4 hours.

If you are breastfeeding, contact the department before your appointment so we can give you more information before you come for your scan.

During a DMSA scan

You will meet our team of technologists or radiographers and they will explain the procedure to you. You can ask any questions about the scan.

For this scan, you will be injected with a tracer. This is a radioactive fluid and helps us to see your scans clearly. It travels through your blood and into your kidneys. The tracer is injected into a vein in your arm or hand.

It takes time for the tracer to be absorbed, so you will need to return to the department for the scan, 3 hours after your injection. During this time you can eat normally, but we’ll ask you to drink slightly more than normal.

Just before the scan, we will ask you to empty your bladder (pee), and then we’ll take you to the camera room. You will be asked to remove any metal items, such as mobile phones, wallets or belts.

The scan will take 30 to 45 minutes. You’ll be lying on a camera bed with your arms by your side or above your head. You can breathe normally during the scan, and will need to stay as still as possible. We will take up to 4 sets of images, and each set takes about 10 minutes.

Pregnancy and breastfeeding

As the scan involves an injection of a radioactive tracer, you must tell us if you are, or think that you might be, pregnant, or if you are breastfeeding. If possible, please tell us as soon as you receive your appointment.

For all nuclear medicine tests we check your pregnancy status with you before using any radioactive tracer.

Pain during the scan

The injection is similar to a blood test and there is no pain associated with the tracer

After a DMSA scan

There are no side effects from this scan and you can carry on with your normal activities.

After the scan you will still have some radioactivity left in your body. For the rest of the day, avoid any non-essential prolonged, close contact with children, and anyone who might be pregnant. This is to reduce the amount of unnecessary radiation to babies and children.

Risks of a DMSA scan

It has been decided that the potential benefits of the test outweigh the very small risks. We make sure the amount of radiation you receive is as small as possible.

You can read government information about radiation exposure from medical imaging.

It is perfectly safe for you to travel abroad after your scan, but many airports and sea ports are now equipped with very sensitive radiation detectors. It is possible that the very small amount of radioactivity left in your body could set off a detector as you pass through security. If you travel abroad in the week after your scan, it could be helpful to take your appointment letter with you.

Follow-up appointments

If you already have an appointment booked in clinic to discuss the results of the test, please let our team know.

Your images will be reviewed by our doctors and a report will be sent to the doctor that referred you. You will get your results from them.

Resource number: 5365/VER1
Last reviewed: July 2023
Next review due: July 2026

Trusted Information Creator. Patient Information Forum

Contact us

If you have any questions about your test in the nuclear medicine department, please contact us.

Phone 020 7188 4112, Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm

Email [email protected]

Do you have any comments or concerns about your care?

Contact our Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS)

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