Renal Scan

UKNOW’s Docs Procedures Renal Scan

What is a Renal Scan?

Renal Scan is a special test used to look at your kidneys. It checks your kidneys size, shape and how they are working. The scan?s pictures are taken with the help of a special medicine that makes parts inside your body bright and clear. This medicine is called a radioisotope.

This test is called a Renal Scan because Renal means kidneys and Scan means to take a picture. Altogether, that means that pictures of your kidneys will be taken.

Why do I need to have a Renal Scan?

You are having a renal scan because the doctor needs to see how your kidneys are working. The renal scan will see things in inside your body that an X-Ray cannot see.

What does a Renal Scan look like?

When you go to have the renal scan, you will see a bed (also called a table). There is also a large machine in the room that takes pictures of your kidneys to show their size, shape and how they work. The machine is called a gamma camera. This is a special camera that is used to take the pictures of your kidneys.

What happens when I have a Renal Scan?

A porter will come and bring you to the area where you will have the renal scan. A technologist (the person who will take the pictures) will greet you and explain what will happen.  You will be given a gown to wear, this looks like a backward housecoat, you may already be wearing one.

You will go into the room where the renal scan machine is. Before you have the scan you will be given a special medicine called radioisotope. This medicine will act like a highlighter to make your kidneys bright.  This will help the doctor to see your kidneys better.

This medicine has to go into your vein. That means that you will have a small poke from a needle to get the IV into your arm or hand. The IV is actually a very small thin flexible plastic straw called a catheter. The IV goes into your vein and is used to help give your body medicine.

After you get the medicine, you may have to wait a little while before the pictures are taken.  When it is time to take the pictures, the technologist will help you get on the bed and will tell you how to lie down so that the best pictures can be taken.

In the room, there is a camera and a computer. The camera is called a gamma camera. It is a special camera that sees the medicine in your kidneys that makes them bright; it will take pictures of your kidneys for the doctors to see. The camera is very big and will come close to your body but it will not touch you. Sometimes the scan can last from 30-60 minutes. When you are done, you are able to go back to your room.

What will it feel like?

  • The camera will not hurt you
  • It will not touch your body
  • You will feel a poke from the needle that gives you the special medicine to make your kidneys bright
  • The bed (table) may feel cold and hard
  • It is important for you to lie very still and relax so that the pictures are not fuzzy
  • It may help you to pass the time if you think about your favourite things

Preparing for the test

Your nurse will give you the information you need to help you get ready to have your renal scan. You may have to drink a lot of water before the test. All you have to do for the scan is to remember that you will have to lie still.


If you have any questions about the test, always ask!

This content has been reviewed and approved by health care team members at McMaster Children’s Hospital in Hamilton, Ontario. All content is for educational purposes only. For further information, please speak with your health care team.

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