A kidney (renal) nuclear medicine scan is used to diagnose certain kidney diseases. It is an excellent diagnostic tool because it shows not only the anatomy of the kidneys, but the function of them as well. This additional "functional information" allows radionuclide imaging to diagnose certain diseases and various medical conditions much sooner than other imaging examinations.
Prior to this test the patient should advise their physician if they are pregnant or breastfeeding and if they are on any medications.
This test is performed in a hospital radiology department or in a health care provider's office by a nuclear medicine technologist under the supervision of a physician. During this test, the patient will be positioned on an exam table and they are asked to lie still to prevent blurring of the images that will be taken. For this test, a radioisotope "tracer," a molecule to which a radioactive atom or "tag" has been attached so that it can be followed through the kidney system with special detectors, is injected into a vein. Immediately after the tracer is injected, imaging begins. A gamma camera detects the radioactivity and the images may be projected on a computer screen and then stored on film.
This test can take 45 minutes to three hours, depending on the goals of the test. Patients can resume their normal activities immediately after the test as tracers are passed naturally from the body.
Radionuclide imaging is considered safe since it does not carry the risk of toxicity or allergic reaction found with intravenous dyes. Also since the radioisotope tracer exposes the patient to less radiation than an X-ray.