What you should know
Renal scintigraphy is an imaging test that uses a radioactive medicine and a camera to take pictures of your kidneys. The pictures show the shape of your kidneys and how they are working. This test may be used to find out how a transplanted kidney is working. It may also show blood flow problems in your kidneys that may be causing your high blood pressure or problems when you urinate. You may also need this test if your blood or urine tests show that your kidneys are not working properly. Your caregiver will use these test results to learn about your condition and decide the best way to treat you.
You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.
You may have an allergic reaction to the radioactive medicine used for this test. This may include a rash, hives, cough, itchiness, trouble breathing, and throat swelling. Side effects from the radioactive medicine may start immediately and can last for several days. Side effects include vomiting, chills, nausea, headache, dizziness, or a fast heartbeat. You may notice increases in your blood pressure if you monitor it at home. You may also have pain, bruising, or redness where the IV was placed. There is a very small risk of cancer from the radioactive medicine used during the test. Talk to your caregiver about these risks.
One week before the test:
- Bring your medicine bottles or a list of your medicines when you see your caregiver. Tell your caregiver if you are allergic to any medicine. Tell your caregiver if you use any herbs, food supplements, or over-the-counter medicine. Also tell your caregiver about any other medical conditions or recent illnesses. Tell him if you have received other recent treatments.
- Ask your caregiver if you need to stop using aspirin or any other prescribed or over-the-counter medicine before your test.
- Tell your caregiver if you take blood pressure medicine or diuretics (medicine that increases flow of urine). You may need to stop taking these medicines before your kidney test. Ask your caregiver if and when you should do this.
- You may need blood or urine tests to tell caregivers how your kidneys are working. Your caregiver may also check your weight so he knows how much radioactive medicine you will need for your test.
- Tell your caregiver if you think you might be pregnant. You should not receive this test if you are pregnant.
- Tell your caregiver if you have any prosthetic limbs or parts on your body. This may affect the pictures of your kidneys.
- You will need to be well hydrated for the kidney test to work. Ask your caregiver how much water you should drink before your test.
The night before and day of the test:
- You or a close family member will be asked to sign a legal document called a consent form. It gives caregivers permission to do the procedure or surgery. It also explains the problems that may happen, and your choices. Make sure all your questions are answered before you sign this form.
- Write down the correct date, time, and location of your test.
- You may need to stop eating at least 4 hours before your test. Food may affect the test results. Ask your caregiver if and when you should stop eating.
- Drink 2 to 3 glasses of water before the test, or as directed. You may be asked to empty your bladder right before the test. Your caregiver may insert a catheter to drain your urine. A full bladder can cause the test to take longer and may affect the results. A catheter may help your caregiver find any blockages in your urinary tract.
- An IV (intravenous) is a small tube placed in your vein that is used to give you medicine or liquids. You will receive an IV if you have not already.
- Tell your caregiver if you are breastfeeding. The radioactive medicine used in this test may get into your breast milk and this can be dangerous to your baby. You will need to pump and throw away your breast milk for 2 to 3 days after your test, or as directed. You may continue breastfeeding when your caregiver says it is okay.
What will happen:
Your caregiver will tell you to lie on your back or sit up straight. Then, he will inject a radioactive medicine into your IV to help your kidneys show up better in the pictures. The radioactive medicine will help your doctor see how fluid flows through your kidneys. Your caregiver may give you blood pressure medicines or diuretics before or during your test. Your caregiver will measure your blood pressure often if he gives you these medicines. Your caregiver may need to take more than one picture of your kidneys. You may need to change positions during the test. This test can take 45 minutes to a few hours.
After your test:
- Wait until your caregiver says you may leave. You may be taken back to a hospital room if you need to stay longer.
- Drink plenty of water and empty your bladder frequently to help flush the radioactive medicine out of your body. Some of the radioactive medicine will leave your body through your urine, bowel movement, or other body fluids. It may take several hours or up to 8 days to leave your body completely. It is okay to use a toilet as you normally would.
Contact a caregiver if
- You have any questions or concerns about your renal scintigraphy.
- You have a fever.
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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.