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Renal Scan - What To Expect?

Written and reviewed by
Dr. Prashant C Dheerendra 89% (35 ratings)
MBBS, MD - Internal Medicine, DM - Nephrology
Nephrologist, Bangalore  •  16 years experience
Renal Scan - What To Expect?

There are two kidneys in the body on the right and left sides, which have a significant role in metabolism, as outlined below. 

  1. Regulation of minerals, including sodium and potassium 
  2. Production of urine through which metabolic wastes, including urea, are cleared out 
  3. Production of the hormone renin which is essential for controlling blood pressure 
  4. Production of the hormone calcitriol which ensures the bones receive the required calcium 
  5. Production of the hormone erythropoietin which is essential for proper red blood cell growth. 

Any impaired kidney function leads to all these associated organs being affected, such as increased blood pressure, improper bone functioning and blood cell formation. So, whenever a kidney disease is suspected, early diagnosis and treatment is very essential. This results in minimal treatment and better prognosis. 

Most people undergo an annual chemical test to check the blood and urine, which would indicate increase in protein levels or other abnormalities. When there is increase in the protein level, a kidney disease needs to be ruled out. One of the best ways to identify renal issues is to do a renal scan. Some of the common reasons for getting a renal scan done are listed below:

  1. To assess the blood flow through the kidneys. Improper flow often is a result of arterial narrowing and high blood pressure. This could be the first step in diagnosing hypertension. This is usually followed by a blood chemical test, which indicates the increased amount of protein and urea in the blood. 
  2. To check the abnormalities in the shape, size, and structure of the kidneys. 
  3. To assess kidney disorders like tumours, cysts, abscesses, etc. 
  4. To assess the effect of injury on the kidney from a trauma or injury. 
  5. To identify renal stones, the size, number, location, etc., which is essential for planning the treatment. 
  6. To find and assess any growth in the kidney. To assess the efficacy of the treatment for kidney diseases. 
  7. To assess how well a transplanted kidney is functioning. 
  8. The good thing about a renal scan is that it can help identify more than one problem during a single scan. 

What is done? 

A radioisotope material is injected into a vein and the flow of this material is then monitored. This scan evaluates the blood flow through and to the kidneys; how the urine flow takes place; and the size/structure of the kidneys. The scan will take about two hours to complete. A renogram is a graph that shows the flow of the tracer through the kidney. 

A different density of uptake indicates different disease conditions. It is usually a painless procedure other than the slight discomfort caused by the needle prick. The results are usually available within two days for the doctor to interpret and take appropriate action.

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