DMSA kidney scan factsheet


A DMSA scan is used to check the kidneys, including:

  • where they are sitting
  • size
  • shape
  • how well they are working.

DMSA stands for dimercaptosuccinic acid, a radioactive medication injected into your child’s vein to help the kidneys show up on an x-ray. 

A DMSA scan is used to check kidney conditions like:

  • scarring from infections
  • urinary reflux – urine flowing back from the bladder into the kidneys
  • pyelonephritis – bacterial infection 
  • ectopic renal tissue –kidneys that are found in a different position to where they should be
  • infarction – when blood supply is blocked
  • horseshoe kidney – kidneys that are fused together
  • renal failure – kidneys that no longer work properly
  • multi-cystic dysplastic kidneys – a condition where cysts, tiny sacs of fluid, take over the kidneys
  • renal trauma – damage to the kidneys from a hit or fall.

 Before the test

Your child does not need to do anything special to prepare for a DMSA scan. They can eat and drink normally. 

During the scan, a small amount of radioactive medication will be injected into their vein through a small tube. The risks of radiation and allergic reactions are very low. You will still need to tell your child’s treatment team if they have any allergies.

Allergic reactions to the DMSA scan are very rare and usually mild. If your child has any allergies, please tell their treatment team. 

Please talk to your child's doctor if you have any questions or concerns.

 During the test

Your child will not feel anything during the scan, and the camera will not touch them.

The DMSA scan happens in two parts.

Part 1:

  • an IV cannula will be inserted into your child's vein to give the DMSA medication
  • your child can leave for up to three hours while the medication moves through their kidneys
  • they can eat, drink, and play during this time
  • the nuclear medicine scientist will let you know when your child needs to return.

Part 2:

  • your child will be asked to empty their bladder
  • If your child wears a nappy, you will wait until they have done a wee before changing it 
  • your child will lie on the scanning bed and be wrapped in a blanket with Velcro straps to help them stay still for clear images
  • the X-ray camera will come close to your child’s body and take pictures from different angles
  • this will take 30 minutes to 1 hour.

 After the test

You can leave once the images have been taken and checked by one of the doctors or nuclear medicine scientists. The results may take some time to come back, and your child's doctor will contact you when they are ready.


Supporting your child during the scan

Scans can be uncomfortable for children. You can prepare your child by:

  • explain to them why the test is needed in simple words
  • bring along their favourite comfort objects, like a blanket, toy, or dummy
  • arriving 30 minutes before the appointment if your child needs numbing cream when the IV cannula is inserted.

You can stay with your child throughout the imaging procedure as long as you are not pregnant.

Your child can watch TV shows or movies or listen to music while the images are taken.

Last updated Monday 17th June 2024


This factsheet is provided for general information only. It does not constitute health advice and should not be used to diagnose or treat any health condition.

Please consult with your doctor or other health professional to make sure this information is right for you and/or your child.

The Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network does not accept responsibility for inaccuracies or omissions, the interpretation of the information, or for success or appropriateness of any treatment described in the factsheet.

© Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network 2024