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DMSA scan

A DMSA scan is one type of imaging test – a test that uses special equipment to create one or more pictures of part of the inside of the body.
A DMSA scan is a radionuclide scan that uses dimercaptosuccinic acid (DMSA) in assessing renal morphology, structure and function. Radioactive technetium-99m is combined with DMSA and injected into a patient, followed by imaging with a gamma camera after 2-3 hours.

DMSA - Dimercapto Succinic Acid

DMSA (dimercapto succinic acid) is a short-lived radioisotope that goes directly to the kidneys once inside the body and only stays radioactive for a few hours. Using DMSA and a special camera, nuclear medicine doctors can see the kidneys and diagnose problems at their earliest stages.

What does a DMSA scan show?

A DMSA scan is used to assess the function and location of the kidneys, that is, to check how well the kidneys are working. It is also used to show any potentially scarred areas in the kidneys, which may not be working as well as they should.

Is DMSA scan necessary?

DMSA scan is recommended, as it can be used to detect children with risk of having dilated VUR.

When do you need a DMSA scan?

This scan is used to check the structure of the kidneys, their size and shape. It is very commonly used in children who have had urinary tract infections. It shows which areas of the kidney are working well and any areas of scarring.

Is DMSA scan painful?

The DMSA scan itself does not hurt, but an intravenous (IV) line is needed to give a tiny amount of the radioisotope before the test. Most children are able to lie perfectly still for the test; young children may even nap through the test.

How is DMSA scan done?

A DMSA scan of the kidneys involves an injection of the radiopharmaceutical into the vein, followed by the scan about 90 minutes to 4 hours after the injection. You can usually leave the hospital or nuclear medicine facility after the injection and return later.

How long does a DMSA scan take?

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.


What is a DMSA scan?

A chemical called Dimercaptosuccinic acid (DMSA) is injected into your child’s body. This chemical is taken into some cells in his or her body, such as those in the kidneys. DMSA is linked to a radioisotope. It emits (gives out), a type of radiation (source of energy) called gamma rays.
During the scan, a special camera picks up the gamma rays and turns them into pictures.

  • The kidney cells (living parts) that are ‘active’ take up the DMSA and emit gamma rays. These are shown on the images as ‘hot spots’, and may be bright or in a colour.
  • The kidney cells that are less ‘active’ (for example, are damaged) take up less or none of the DMSA, and do not emit as many gamma rays. These are shown on the images as less bright spots, or may not be seen at all.

Are DMSA scans harmful?

A DMSA scan gives the same amount of radiation (dose) that we would be exposed to in between 6 months and one year. The radioisotope that is injected into your child’s body becomes inactive after a few hours and is passed out of his or her body in urine or faeces (poo). However, your doctor will carefully consider the risks and benefits of doing this test in your child.

What happens?

The DMSA scan takes place at all the centres of City Imaging and Clinical Labs.
A radiographer or a technician, a specialist trained in imaging tests, performs the test.

  • The radioisotope is injected into a blood vessel, using a needle or a small plastic tube called a cannula. This is usually in the hand, arm or foot. Your child may feel a sharp scratch from the needle. A local anaesthetic, a spray or cream, can be put on your child’s skin before inserting the needle or cannula, to make the area feel numb.
  • It takes some time for the radioisotope to reach the kidneys. Your child will wait for about three hours, and then come back to the nuclear medicine department.
  • During the scan, your child lies on a scanning bed.
  • Your child needs to lie still while a large camera above him or her takes pictures. These show the radioisotope that has been taken up by his or her kidneys.