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. This is a radioactive medication that is 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 – a 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 joined together
  • renal failure – kidneys that no longer work properly
  • multi-cystic dysplastic kidneys – a condition where cysts take over the kidneys, small sacs of fluid
  • renal trauma – damage to the kidneys from a hit or fall.

 Before the test

There is no special preparation for a DMSA scan. Your child can eat and drink as usual.

The DMSA scan involves a small amount of radioactive medication being injected into your child's vein through a small tube called an intravenous (IV) cannula. The risks of radiation are minimal.

Allergic reactions in the DMSA scan are very rare and almost always mild. Let your child's treatment team know if they have any allergies.

Your child will not feel anything during the scan. The camera does come quite close but will not touch your child.

Talk to your child's doctor if you have questions or concerns about the DMSA.

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

  • staying with them during the procedure unless you are pregnant
  • explain to them why the test is needed in simple words
  • bring along their favourite comfort objects, like a blanket, toy, or dummy/pacifier/soother
  • arriving 30 minutes before the appointment if your child needs numbing cream when the IV cannula is inserted.

 During the test

The DMSA scan happens in 2 parts.

In the first part, an IV cannula is inserted into your child’s vein. The DMSA medicine is then pushed through the cannula.

Your child can leave for up to 3 hours while the DMSA medicine moves through their kidneys. The nuclear medicine scientist working with your child will give you a time to return. Your child can eat, drink, and play during this rest period.

In the second part, your child will be asked to go to the toilet and empty their bladder. If your child wears a nappy, you will wait until they do a wee before changing it.

Your child will lie on the scanning bed wrapped in a blanket with Velcro straps. This is to help them lie still so the images can be taken clearly.

The X-ray camera will then come close to your child’s body and take pictures from different angles for about 30 minutes to 1 hour.

You will be able to stay with your child throughout the imaging procedure. Your child can watch TV shows or a movie or listen to music whilst the images are taken.

 After the test

Once the images have been taken and checked by one of the doctors or nuclear medicine scientists, you can leave.

The results can take a bit of time to come back. Your child's doctor will contact you when the results are ready.

Last updated Thursday 30th November 2023


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