MIBG scintiscan

MIBG Scan: Overview

A MIBG scan is a type of nuclear imaging test used to diagnose tumors of the adrenal gland and certain types of cancer. The scan uses a harmless radioactive substance, known as meta-iodobenzylguanidine or MIBG, which is injected into the patient and absorbed by cancerous and healthy adrenal gland cells. The cells that are absorbing the MIBG then emit gamma rays, which can be detected, allowing doctors to create images of the patient’s body and identify areas of cancer.

Why is a MIBG Scan Performed?

A MIBG scan is used to diagnose and monitor the treatment of certain types of cancer, including:

  • Neuroblastoma
  • Pheochromocytoma
  • Paraganglioma
  • Other tumors of the adrenal gland
  • Neuroendocrine cancer
  • Brain tumors

Preparation for a MIBG Scan

In order to get an accurate reading, it is crucial that the patient follows all instructions for the scan. Patients must arrive for the scan on time and with all necessary paperwork, which may include:

  • Picture ID
  • Insurance paperwork
  • Radiology request forms
  • Patient information forms

Prior to the scan, patients should:

  • Avoid wearing any jewelry, metal accessories or garments with metal accents
  • Inform the doctor of any medications being taken and any allergies
  • Cease taking any supplements, vitamins, or other substances containing hormonal properties that can interfere with the results of the scan
  • Discontinue eating 4-6 hours before the scan
  • Follow the instructions on any other preparation that may be requested

MIBG Scan Procedure

The scan procedure is usually completed in two phases. Before the scan is performed, the patient is injected with a dose of MIBG. The patient then has to wait for the substance to travel to the desired area of the body, which can take several hours. The second phase of the scan takes place in a dark room with a camera. The camera takes pictures of the body parts that have been affected by the MIBG to identify cancerous cells.

Types of MIBG Scans

The two main types of MIBG scans are:

  • A full-body scan, which takes images of the entire body
  • A limited-field scan, which takes images of a specific area of the body, such as the abdomen, chest, neck, or lower back

Potential Risks Associated With MIBG Scans

MIBG scans are considered to be safe and are not known to cause any serious side effects. However, the injection of MIBG involves a very small dose of radiation, so pregnant women are not advised to have a MIBG scan. Additionally, the radiation may cause mild symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, muscle pain, and headaches that usually go away on their own.


A MIBG scan is a safe and effective way to diagnose and monitor certain types of cancer. The scan involves a small dose of radiation that can cause minor symptoms, however these are usually minor and go away on their own. As long as the patient follows preparation instructions and arrives on time for the scan, they can rest assured that they are receiving the best possible care.