What Is a Nuclear Medicine Kidney Function Test?

Submitted by Nic on October 16, 2012

Nuclear medicine refers to a particular branch of radiology in which radioactive material is used in order to diagnose various diseases and health conditions. This radioactive material, also known as radiopharmaceuticals or tracers gather in a certain organ of the body from where they can yield the required information for studying the working of that organ.

What is a nuclear medicine kidney function test?

A nuclear medicine kidney function test can be described as a set of individual tests that are conducted in order to evaluate if the kidneys are functioning properly or not. Also known as a kidney nuclear medicine scan, this test involves administration of small amounts of tracers, or radioactive substances, into the body, so that images of the kidney, as well as the bladder can be taken, using a special camera. Once the images are obtained, they are used to diagnose if a person suffers from any kidney diseases, and what form of treatment should be used. There are several tests, like the Computed Tomography Scans (CT scan), x rays, as well as ultrasound exams that allow doctors to check the structure of the kidneys. However, a kidney nuclear medicine scan is conducted, mainly to analyze how well the kidneys are working.

The results of a nuclear medicine kidney function test are very important for a doctor, in order to make an accurate diagnosis, in case there are any problems that are suspected.

The nuclear medicine kidney function test is usually performed by a special technologist or an expert. The patient needs to be prepared and then positioned in a certain way, on the examination table. During the test, the patient needs to ensure that he or she is still, or else the images captured could be blurred. In order to obtain the best images, it is important for the camera to be positioned as close to the kidney as possible. Thereafter, the tracer is injected into the patient’s body and the imaging begins immediately, as the tracer’s radioactivity starts diminishing within a short while. The entire procedure could last anywhere between 45 minutes to three hours.

Pregnant women are usually advised against a nuclear medicine kidney function test, since the radiation could have an effect on the baby. Therefore, women who are advised to go through a kidney function test should inform the doctor if they are pregnant, or if they suspect that they may be. Women who are breastfeeding should also let the doctor know as they may be required to stop breastfeeding for a couple of days, as the tracer could accumulate in breast milk.

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