Your Child's DMSA Scan

Nuclear Medicine Department
Turner Diagnostic Centre
Colchester General Hospital
Turner Road
01206 742337 / 742367

Children’s Outpatient Department
01206 746177

What do I need to know?

Your child has been given an appointment to come for a DMSA scan. We hope this leaflet will provide you with useful information and answer any questions you may have.

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This type of injury heals very well in a simple and easy-to-apply splint rather than in plaster of Paris, which is cumbersome.

More Information

DMSA stands for dimercaptosuccinic acid. A DMSA scan is a way of looking at your child’s kidneys in detail. It provides information on the size and position of the kidneys, and also checks to see if the kidneys have been scarred following urine infections.

We need to see your child twice on the day of the test: once in the morning for an injection of a radioactive tracer, and again 2-3 hours later in the afternoon for the scan, using a piece of equipment called a gamma camera. This substance travels to your child’s kidneys and a small amount comes out in the urine. The scan usually takes about 30 minutes.

You will be asked to attend the Children’s Outpatient Department so your child can be prepared for the scan. Your appointment letter will give you details of the time. The Children’s Outpatient Department is marked on the circle on the map above.

If your child is having any other tests today, such as X-rays, ultrasound scans or blood tests, please inform the receptionist in the Children’s Outpatient Department.

There is no special preparation for this test. We find it helpful for your child to have eaten some breakfast and have had a drink before coming for the scan. Your child needs to be well hydrated for the scan to have a good result. Please make sure that your child drinks plenty of fluids on the day of the scan.

The results will be discussed with you at your next doctor’s appointment. Please do not ring the Children’s Unit or the Nuclear Medicine Department for the results.

Please do not hesitate to contact any of the numbers on the front of this leaflet if you require further information.

When your child attends hospital you will be asked for his or her NHS number and other information, such as your address. Please be patient with this procedure as it is to ensure our records are kept up to date and to protect your child’s safety. If you do not know his or her NHS number, please don’t worry, he or she will still receive care.

As part of your child’s treatment, a photographic record may be made, such as X-ray(s), clinical photographs or digital images, which will be kept confidentially in their health records and seen only by people involved in his or her care or quality checking. They are also extremely important for teaching or medical research so we may ask for your written consent to use the images, in which case your child’s personal details will be removed so he or she cannot be identified.

When your child attends hospital you will be asked to confirm his or her first and last names, date of birth, postcode and NHS number, if you know it, and to let us know if he or she has any allergies.

Parking is sometimes difficult and the main public car park at Colchester General Hospital is situated some distance from several departments. Please allow adequate time so that you and anyone with you can arrive together, unflustered. A ticket system is in operation so please bring change for the ticket machine.

Colchester Park and Ride is located opposite the Weston Homes Community Stadium (at J28 of the A12) and the buses stop outside the back of the hospital. It runs from 7 am-7 pm, Monday to Saturday. For more information see or call 0345 743 0430.

Please raise any concerns in the ward or department you are in. Ask to speak with the ward sister, matron or department manager. If your concerns cannot be resolved or you wish to make a formal complaint, please call PALS (Patient Advice & Liaison Service) on 0800 783 7328, or pick up a PALS leaflet.

If you or a family member has recently been in Colchester General Hospital, you can tell us about your experience by searching for ‘Colchester’ on the NHS Choices website (, by writing to the address on the front of this leaflet or by filling in a ‘Friends & Family questionnaire at the hospital.

If for any reason you will be unable to keep your appointment, please inform the Nuclear Medicine Department as soon as possible on 01206 742337.

Please come at the time specified. Please try to avoid bringing any other children under the age of 16 to this appointment.
On arrival, your child will be weighed and have his or her blood pressure taken. A play specialist will explain what will happen during the scan and help you and your child using pictures and play.
A small tube called a cannula will be inserted into a vein by a doctor or nurse. Anaesthetic spray will be used to make this as painless as possible. The play specialist will support you and your child throughout this procedure.

You and your child will be escorted to the Nuclear Medicine Department, where a technician will explain what they are going to do.

Girls aged 12 years and over will be asked about their periods and any possibility that they could be pregnant.

You will be asked to sign a consent form for the procedure.

A small amount of radioactive tracer will be injected through the cannula. The cannula will then be removed. This substance is slowly taken up by the kidneys. You will be given a time to return during the afternoon for the scan to be performed. You may go home or stay in the Children’s Outpatient Department if you wish.

Please return to the Children’s Outpatient Department, where you will be accompanied to the scanning room by the play specialist, who will help to distract your child whilst the images are taken.
One to four images will be taken depending on the age of your child each of which will last up to 12 minutes.

Your child will not have to undress and the procedure is not uncomfortable. Your child will need to keep as still as possible while the pictures are being taken. You can be with your child at all times and he or she can listen to stories, play simple games or watch DVDs while the images are being taken.

We have toys, books and DVDs at the hospital but if your child has a favourite, please bring it with you. You may also bring a drink or something that your child enjoys eating, if you think it will help.

It is important that your child is still and cooperates as much as possible, which can be encouraged by your reassurance and the help of our play specialists. We sometimes use specialist equipment to help very young children to keep still during the scan.

The results from the test will show how well the kidneys function and enable the consultant to decide on the most appropriate treatment for your child.

There is a very small radiation dose involved in this procedure – much lower than a normal X-ray, although it is necessary to take some precautions for the first 24 hours after the test, while the tracer substance is leaving the body:

  • your child should drink plenty of fluids. This will allow the tracer substance to pass as quickly as possible;
  • if your child is toilet trained, he or she should go to the toilet as often as possible;
  • if your child is in nappies, you should change them frequently and dispose of nappies in an outside bin. Wash your hands thoroughly after nappy changing;
  • your child should continue to take any medicines as usual. The tracer will not affect them in any way.

There are no other side effects.