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Kidney (Renal) Scan

Kidney Scans look at the kidney function; a radioactive tracer substance is injected into a vein in the arm and then travels through the bloodstream to the kidneys. The tracer flows through the blood vessels in the kidneys and then is excreted into the urine. A special camera (gamma) takes pictures of the tracer in the kidneys. This helps show cell activity and function in the kidneys.

Your doctor may recommend a Kidney Scan to:

  • Check the blood flow through the kidneys (abnormal flow may mean narrowed renal arteries that can cause a type of high blood pressure called renovascular hypertension)
  • See how a transplanted kidney is working
  • Evaluate the extent of kidney damage caused by an injury or infection
  • Find an obstruction in the kidney or ureter (such as from a kidney stone)

For a Kidney Scan a small amount of the radioactive tracer is injected into the arm. Medicine to increase your urine output (a diuretic) may also be injected. You may lie on your back on a table, stand or sit upright. A large scanning camera will be positioned closely above your abdomen. You need to remain very still during each scan to avoid blurring the pictures. The camera does not produce any radiation, so you are not exposed to any additional radiation while the scan is being done.

Functional Study
For a functional study, the camera will scan for radiation right after the radioactive tracer is injected. Scans may be taken every few minutes for about 30 minutes. The scans produce pictures as the tracer moves through your kidneys. You may also be given medicine to help the scans check for certain kidney functions. A functional kidney scan usually takes about 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Cortical Scan
For a cortical scan, the radioactive tracer is injected and some pictures are usually taken right away. More pictures will be taken one to two hours after the tracer was injected. A cortical scan usually takes about two hours.

For Physicians

External cameras capture internal images emitted by radiopharmaceuticals to detect and track disease.

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