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Nuclear Medicine Scan

When Your Child's Having a Nuclear Medicine Scan

​​​What is a nuclear medicine scan?

A nuclear medicine scan looks at how well blood is flowing to an area or how well an organ or system is working by giving a small amount of radioactive fluid (tracer) by intravenous (IV) or by mouth.

How does my child get ready for the scan?

If your child is having a gastrointestinal study, he or she can’t eat or drink before the scan. You’ll be told what to do at the time the appointment is made.

An IV will be started in a vein in your child’s arm, hand, or foot. Freezing cream (EMLA®, Amatop®, or Maxilene®) will be placed on your child's skin 30 minutes prior to the scan. This will make it more comfortable for your child when the IV is started.

You can bring a comfort item for your child (like a blanket or stuffed toy). You can stay with your child during the scan.

What happens during the scan?

  • Your child will be taken to the imaging room and lie on a special type of bed.
  • Velcro™ straps will be used to help your child hold still.
  • The technologist will start the IV and inject the tracer. The needle may be left in during the scan. (You can leave while the IV is being started and come back later.)
  • We have a DVD player so that your child can watch movies during the scan.

How long does the scan take?

It depends on the type of scan.

Bone Scan2 to 3 hours
HIDA Scan1 1/2 to 2 hours
MAG 3 Renal Scan1 hour
DMSA/Gluco Renal Scan2 1/2 hours
DTPA/GFR Renal Scan3 to 4 hours
Meckel's Scan1 hour
Gastric Emptying Scan2 1/2 to 4 hours

Does the test have any side effects?

Very rarely, some children get a skin rash after the tracer injection.

The amount of radiation from the scan is so small that it’s not a concern.

What happens after the scan?

Your child may eat, drink, and play as usual.

Most of the tracer leaves the body through urine and bowel movements.

Your child may have a bruise where the IV was started. This should fade over the next few days.

Your family doctor will get the results of the scan in about 1 week. Please call your doctor’s office for the results.

Current as of: September 25, 2020

Author: Diagnostic Imaging, Alberta Health Services