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What is an MIBG scan?

An MIBG scan is a non-invasive test which uses a special dye to see tumor activity. Pictures are taken after the special dye is injected into a vein (IV). The pictures show this medicine in the tumors and are taken on the day after the special dye medication is given.

What should we do before the scan?

For the MIBG scan, it is important for your child to take SSKI solution. This liquid medication, prescribed by your child’s oncologist, is taken by mouth and protects your child’s thyroid from the special dye. This needs to be taken 1 day prior to MIBG injection, day of the injection, day of the scan, and for 1 day after the scan.

You may want to bring your child’s favorite book, toy, or comforting object for the test. It might be helpful to bring a snack or drink for your child to have after the test is complete.

You may keep your child’s routine eating, sleeping, and medicine schedules before the test. Your child’s doctor or a staff member may give you different instructions if your child will have sedation or more tests on the same day.

How is the scan done?

This scan is done in the Nuclear Medicine department. It has three parts:

  1. Injection: Your child will have an IV placed in a vein, usually in the arm or hand. This involves a little poke. Once the IV is in place, the needle is removed and a tiny plastic tube stays in the vein. The special dye is given into the IV. If your child has an implanted port-a-cath, Hickman, or Broviac, the special dye can be injected into this existing line instead of placing an IV.
  2. Waiting period: Your child may participate in normal activities after the injection is complete.
  3. Scan: The next day, your child will return to the hospital for the MIBG scan. You child will be asked to empty their bladder and remove any metal objects before the pictures are taken. The scan takes 1 hour. During the scan, your child will lie still on an imaging table. A large camera will be above and below them. The camera will move slowly and scan the entire body of your child. The camera does not make any loud noises but will come close to your child. 3D pictures might be needed and for these the camera will move around your child. These pictures take an extra 30 minutes. It is important for your child to remain still during the pictures. If your child moves, the pictures will need to be redone.

 Can I be with my child during the test?

 You are welcome to stay with your child during the whole test, even if you are nursing or pregnant. If your doctor has ordered sedation for your child’s scan, plan on being here for a total of 3 to 4 hours.

What can I expect after the test?

If your child was sedated for the scan they will be monitored by a nurse in the recovery room until they wake. You may be with your child while they are recovering from sedation.

Your child may go back to normal eating and activity after this test.

Continue taking the SSKI medicine as prescribed.

The small amount of special dye used for the test will naturally lower over the next couple days. You and your child will not notice any differences. Drinking plenty of water will help flush the radio-pharmaceutical from your child’s body.

You will receive results from the doctor who ordered the test.

How should I prepare my child?

Children are usually less afraid and feel more successful when they know what to expect and what is expected of them. You know your child best. The amount of detail you give will depend on your child’s age and developmental level, reactions to previous health care experiences, and degree of anxiety about this test. Talking about it can help your child be more comfortable with the test, which will make the test easier for both of you.

Many children ask if the test will hurt. Assure them there may be some discomfort which will only last a few moments. Remind them the test is important because it helps find out how their body is working inside.

Children and young adults of all ages may want to bring a comfort item, such as their own blanket and pillow. Younger children may also find it helpful to bring a favorite toy or pacifier. Older children and teens may want to bring an electronic device.

To learn more about preparing and helping your child cope with this test, call the child life department. Child life specialists are trained to help children understand and cope with medical producedures and can offer parents advice on how to talk with and support their child. There is no charge for child life services.

Child life department phone number:
Children’s-Minneapolis (612) 813-6259


This sheet is not specific to your child but provides general information. If you have questions or need more information about the test, call the radiology department at Children’s-Minneapolis (612) 813-8200 or Children’s-St. Paul (651) 220-6147.

Patient/Family Education
2525 Chicago Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55404

Last reviewed Hem/Onc 6/2015. ©Copyright

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This page is not specific to your child, but provides general information on the topic above. If you have any questions, please call your clinic. For more reading material about this and other health topics, please call or visit Children's Minnesota Family Resource Center library, or visit

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