What is a DMSA Scan?

A DMSA scan looks at the anatomy and function of the kidneys. It is useful for detecting kidney scarring following a UTI (Urinary Tract Infection).


There is no special preparation for the examination, and you may eat and drink normally before your appointment and you can take any medication as usual.

This scan can only be performed if it has been 4 months or greater since your last UTI. You should only have this scans 4 months after the last UTI. If you have had a UTI in the last 4 months please contact us prior to your appointment as the appointment will need to be rescheduled.

For children under 16yrs of age before the appointment time the child should be cannulated at the children assessment unit at 9am.


If you are pregnant or breastfeeding it is essential that you let us know before your appointment date. If you are a female of child bearing age (12-55 years old), you will be asked about your pregnancy and breastfeeding status. If you are unable to confirm you are not pregnant a pregnancy test may be performed.


All patients are entitled to have a chaperone present for any consultation, examination or procedure where they feel one is required. This chaperone may be a family member or friend. On occasions you may prefer a formal chaperone to be present (ie. trained member of staff).

The examination

Your DMSA examination is divided in two parts which you must attend.

Upon your arrival a radiographer will explain the procedure to you and will ask you a few questions about your health records. You will then have a small amount of radioactive tracer injected into a vein in your arm. The injected tracer is carried through the bloodstream to your kidneys. It emits gamma rays which can be detected by a piece of equipment called a gamma camera.

You will then be sent away and asked to return 3 HOURS after injection for the second part of the scan. This time gap is to allow the tracer to be fully absorbed into your kidneys which will enable us to image them. During this time you may eat as normal but you should drink more than usual and empty your bladder regularly. These will help to produce better quality images.

When you return 3 hours later we will ask you to empty your bladder. You will then lay on a scan table with the camera placed above and below your abdomen. The machine is very quiet and you do not go through a tube or tunnel.

You do not need to undress for the examination, but you may need to remove metal objects from your clothing or pockets, such as coins, jewellery and/or belts as these will interfere with the quality of the pictures.

How long will it take?

The administration of the tracer takes approximately 15 minutes.

The scan takes approximately 20 minutes.

You are free to leave the department/hospital in the gap between the first and second part of your appointment.

Who will be present?

Your scan will be performed by a Nuclear Medicine trained member of staff which stays with you in the room while scanning. In addition we might have students in our department, and they will observe the procedure if you give your permission.

Will the injection hurt?

The injection is very similar to having blood taken. It will not make you drowsy or prevent you from driving a car.

Is radioactivity dangerous?

The amount of radiation involved is similar to that from an x-ray examination. The radioactivity naturally disperses from the body and is largely gone in 24 hours. The very low risk involved is balanced against the benefit of the information the examination provides for your doctors.

After the examination

You will be asked to drink more than usual for the rest of the day to help clear the substance from your body. Otherwise you can continue as normal.