One of the best examples of radioactivity being put to good use is the DMSA scan. DMSA, or dimercaptosuccinic acid, possesses the property of radioactivity, meaning once injected inside the body, it will give out gamma rays for a few hours until it completely decays down.
DMSA scans are found most useful in studying the structure and function of kidneys, especially when presence of diseases such as pyelonephritis, severe urinary tract infection or renal scarring is suspected. A big advantage of DMSA scan is that it can prove useful in those people who are allergic to iodinated contrast agents used in other imaging tests. This test is carried out by a nuclear medicine expert and technologist.
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Only kidney cells in the body have the ability to absorb DMSA molecules, meaning the active kidney cells will take up more of DMSA while the inactive cells will not. This forms the basis of imaging with this radiopharmaceutical drug. The gamma rays produced are then captured with the help of a special gamma camera.
Before the test is carried out, do remember to tell your doctor about your present health status, be it the presence of any disease, pregnancy, allergies, etc. The procedure is quite simple with minimum discomfort. An IV injection of DMSA is given in a suitable spot by the technologist. The injection will just feel like a small twinge, but it is important to keep still when the radioisotope is being injected into the body. After this, you will be asked to wait for about 2 hours, as this helps in better absorption of DMSA into the kidneys.
When this scan is done for small kids, the doctor may inject a tiny amount of sedative as well during the injection, which helps them to calm down. Once the waiting period is over, you will be called into the imaging room where you are made to lie on your stomach. Now the gamma camera is positioned in such a way that the images of your kidneys are taken properly. On an average, 4-5 pictures are taken, where the time taken for one image is around 5-10 minutes. Thus, you would be lying down in the imaging room for at least half an hour. Once the nuclear medicine specialist is satisfied with the pictures, you are free to go.
An important benefit of DMSA is that it does not bind for a very long time with the cells of your body and can hence get eliminated easily. This makes it a very risk free procedure. Also, there is no need for any special preparation before this test. You can eat and drink normally before the imaging is carried out. If your little one is going to need this scan, do your best to reassure your child. Children can get very anxious at the sight of a needle and your support will be the best way to keep them calm. You can get their favorite toy, games or movies for them which will help them remain relaxed during the procedure. If the need for sedating your child arises, be sure to sign the consent form first and then go ahead.
A DMSA scan is a great imaging technique which combines precision with clarity of function. A method which shows not only the how, but the why of abnormal function as well.