The idea to get about what is a renal scan is any kind of medical test or procedure done can be quite fear-inducing for most people. Ironically, even though these tests are done to ensure that any possible harm is prevented, we all would rather avoid them. 

But looking after your body means going through these small discomforts so that we can give it all the care we need. Every day, trillions of cells inside us regenerate themselves, building themselves into tissues, which then together form the support system of our organs. The human body has around 78 organs that perform a variety of functions. It is because of them that we can live through our days with such.  

A very important set of organs in our body is the kidneys. The kidneys are responsible for a variety of functions, such as flushing the urea out of the blood by making urine, maintaining a balance of certain chemicals, controlling blood pressure, etc. Thus, keeping our kidneys healthy is a must to maintain overall wellness. 

This means that there might sometimes be a need to get the kidneys checked out, to ensure that they are working well. Such a procedure is often done through a renal scan. Today, we are going to tell you all about renal scans, because knowledge is the best way to beat the fear caused by ignorance. 

What is a Renal Scan?

A renal scan is a medical procedure through which your kidneys are scanned. This is done by injecting a nuclear radioactive material into the veins. This radioactive material is actually a radioisotope that releases gamma rays, which can then be detected by a gamma scanner outside. This is done safely and no harm is caused to the body.

What Is A Renal Scan

Through this, your doctor can observe both the structure as well as the functioning of your kidneys, making it possible to detect any abnormalities. This is extremely beneficial in catching any issue with your kidneys in the early stages, so a proper cure can be given right away. 

Thus, as scary as it may sound, this is done to be on the safer side, so you can work towards good health with zero worries.

When is a Renal Scan Needed?

Now that you know, what is a renal scan, you may be wondering when one needs to get it. 

What Is A Renal Scan

Well, as mentioned before, your kidneys do a variety of tasks, such as removing liquid waste, balancing potassium and sodium, as well as producing various hormones that aid certain functions such as supplying calcium to the bones, increasing red blood cell count, controlling blood pressure, etc. So, if there is any disturbance in these functions, the problem might be traced back to your kidneys. 

Usually, such a problem would be detected in your routine blood and urine tests, since that is the kidneys’ main job. So, a renal scan might be recommended afterwards, which would then highlight any possible damage to the structure of the kidneys or their work process.

Renal scans are highly useful because they can detect conditions such as abscesses and tumours, They can also detect high blood pressure in renal arteries, decreased blood flow in kidneys and any diseases in the kidney, such as kidney stones. 

Additionally, a renal scan can also be done to make sure that the kidneys are working properly after surgery or a kidney transplant. This way, your doctor can monitor your healing and suggest things that you could do to maintain your progress.

DMSA Renal Scan

Different types of renal scans can be done, using different radioisotopes, such as diethylene triamine pentaacetic acid (DTPA), mercapto acetyl triglycine (MAG3) and dimercaptosuccinic acid (DMSA). Today, we are going to tell you a little bit more about the DMSA renal scan.

A DMSA renal scan is done with the Technetium-99m DMSA radiopharmaceutical. It is done in the following steps:

  1. First, a small amount of the DMSA radioisotope will be injected into your bloodstream using a needle or an IV (intravenous administration).
  1. After this, you will be asked to wait for a while, so that the radioisotope can circulate in your bloodstream and reach the target organ. This wait time could be anywhere between 1 to 4 hours. The medical professional at the sight will tell you exactly when you need to show up for scanning.
  1. Usually, there is no need for sedation, because this is a painless procedure. However, if your doctor feels that sedation is necessary, then you may be injected with said substance in the meantime, while you wait. 
  1. After the required wait, you will be taken to the scanning room and asked to lie on the scanner table. 
  1. You will be asked to remove any objects that may interfere with the scanning, such as dentures, accessories, jewellery, metal items, clothing, etc. The medical professional will give you the instructions and you should make sure to ask them if you have any doubts.
  1. A large camera will be positioned above you and it will capture the necessary images via gamma rays detection. It is important to stay still during this process, to not distort any images. 
  1. The procedure will usually be done in under 30 minutes. After this, the resulting images will be observed and you should be allowed to go home if everything looks okay.

Thus, a DMSA renal scan is quite a simple process that might seem intimidating initially but will be comfortable throughout. Remember that these steps are unique to the DMSA procedure and they will be different for other radioisotopes or procedures. So, always, always, always ask your physician for instructions and follow them thoroughly.

Things to Keep in Mind 

If you now feel a bit more reassured with the idea of a renal scan, you might be wondering if there are things you need to remember.

What Is A Renal Scan

First, know that the procedure is completely safe and the amount of radioisotope injected into your body will not have any negative effects.

Second, there aren’t any things that you have to prepare, mostly. However, if your doctor decides to sedate you during the procedure, you may be asked to observe a certain diet beforehand.

Always inform your doctor about any medications that you may be taking. They may give you special instructions if you are on diuretics, medication for heart troubles or blood pressure, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), including ibuprofen or aspirin, etc.

You may be asked to give a urine sample beforehand so they can check if you have had any recent history of urine infections because that might distort the results. 

Also, If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, make sure to inform the doctor.

All in all, it may seem confusing, but remember that your doctor and other staff will be there to guide you through your renal scan and all the steps before as well as after. All you need to do is listen and ask any questions you might have, no matter how small they may seem to you. 

Remember that feeling safe and comfortable, as well as building trust with the professionals around you, is as important as the actual procedure.

Maintaining Kidney Health

Ultimately, one needs to combine regular check-ups with a healthy, balanced lifestyle that is followed as much as possible. A renal scan can reduce the risk of further damage, but looking after yourself every day will take this even further.

What Is A Renal Scan

To keep your kidneys healthy, make sure to drink lots of water and other fluids, maintain your blood sugar, monitor your blood pressure, exercise regularly, make sure you are taking medication that is safe and also, gets checked if you feel like you are at more risk of kidney disease.

Remember that as much as we can’t help stressing over our health, we have to try and relax, because a healthy mind equates to a healthy body. So, go for your annual checkups and try building little healthy habits, and remember to pat your back through the entire journey. 

After all, if your kidneys are working hard to take care of you, you are working hard to take care of them, too. This is a mutual, interdependent relationship and you both need so much appreciation for it!