A renal scan is a nuclear medicine exam used to diagnose certain kidney diseases. 

Your kidneys remove wastes and extra fluid from your body. Your kidneys also remove acid that is produced by the cells of your body and maintain a healthy balance of water, salts, and minerals such as sodium, calcium, phosphorus and potassium in your blood.

Images are captured to examine how blood flows into and out of the kidneys. The scan shows how urine flows through the kidneys, ureters and bladder. It can also estimate how much each kidney is helping to clean your blood.

When would I get a Renal Scan?

Your doctor may consider a renal scan to be appropriate in the evaluation of:

  • high blood pressure in the renal arteries
  • tumors or cysts
  • abscesses
  • kidney disease
  • how well kidneys function after treatment or transplants

A renal scan can be valuable for identifying kidney failure, transplant-related complications and  kidney-related injuries.

What Will I Experience?

Preparation can vary widely based on the type of scan being conducted. You may be asked to drink extra fluid or possibly receive intravenous (IV) fluids. You may also be given a diuretic to increase urine production.

In some cases, the bladder may need to remain empty during the scan, necessitating the insertion of a catheter. In other cases, you may be asked to go to the bathroom and empty your bladder prior to imaging. You also may be asked to discontinue use of some medications prior to your exam.

You will lie on an examination table. When it is time for the imaging to begin, the camera or scanner will take a series of images. The camera may rotate around you or it may stay in one position and you may be asked to change positions in between images. While the camera is taking pictures, you will need to remain still for brief periods of time. In some cases, the camera may move very close to your body. This is necessary to obtain the best quality images. If you are claustrophobic, you should inform the technologist before your exam begins.

 A renal scan will vary in length to complete, depending upon the needs of the study and what the doctor is trying to determine for a diagnosis. Typically, a renal scan may be as brief as 45 minutes or could last up to three hours to complete.