Functional renal imaging: new trends in radiology and nuclear medicine

Semin Nucl Med. 2011 Jan;41(1):61-72. doi: 10.1053/j.semnuclmed.2010.08.003.


The objective of this work is to compare the characteristics of various techniques for functional renal imaging, with a focus on nuclear medicine and magnetic resonance imaging. Even with low spatial resolution and rather poor signal-to-noise ratio, classical nuclear medicine has the advantage of linearity and good sensitivity. It remains the gold standard technique for renal relative functional assessment. Technetium-99m ((99m)Tc)-labeled diethylenetriamine penta-acetate remains the reference glomerular tracer. Tubular tracers have been improved: (123)I- or (131)I-hippuran, (99m)Tc-MAG3 and, recently, (99m)Tc-nitrilotriacetic acid. However, advancement in molecular imaging has not produced a groundbreaking tracer. Renal magnetic resonance imaging with classical gadolinated tracers probably has potential in this domain but has a lack of linearity and, therefore, its value still needs evaluation. Moreover, the advent of nephrogenic systemic fibrosis has delayed its expansion. Other developments, such as diffusion or blood oxygen level-dependent imaging, may have a role in the future. The other modalities have a limited role in clinical practice for functional renal imaging.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Contrast Media / adverse effects
  • Diagnostic Imaging / adverse effects
  • Diagnostic Imaging / methods*
  • Diagnostic Imaging / trends
  • Humans
  • Kidney / diagnostic imaging
  • Kidney / physiology*
  • Nuclear Medicine / methods*
  • Nuclear Medicine / trends
  • Radioactive Tracers
  • Radiography
  • Radiology / methods*
  • Radiology / trends
  • Radionuclide Imaging


  • Contrast Media
  • Radioactive Tracers