The dimercaptosuccinic acid (DMSA) renal scan is a method for assessing kidney function. Indications for DMSA scanning in children with urinary tract infection (UTI), as well as timing, have changed. Pitfalls in interpreting DMSA scans include: (1) acute pyelonephritis (APN), (2) tubular dysfunction, (3) hypertension, (4) use of captopril in patients with renovascular hypertension and (5) duplex kidneys. Interpretation of DMSA scans in children with UTI vary according to timing and clinical setting. During the course of a febrile UTI a DMSA scan may reveal a normal kidney, APN or a non-functioning, small and/or ectopic kidney. In the absence of UTI (up to 6 months) in children with vesicoureteric reflux a DMSA scan may indicate a normal kidney, renal scarring (reflux nephropathy), occult duplex kidney and allows the progression of scarring and hypertrophy of normal areas of the kidney to be followed anatomically. The DMSA renal scan in now the most reliable test for the diagnosis of APN. The transient abnormalities due to APN can occur in normal or scarred kidneys. Lesions due to reflux nephropathy (defined as a defect in the renal outline or contraction of the whole kidney) are permanent. Intravenous urography reveals renal abnormalities later than the DMSA scan. If abnormalities are seen on a DMSA scan performed during the course of APN it is impossible to predict the outcome: they can progress to permanent scarring or heal completely. An abnormal DMSA scan during a febrile UTI allows the identification of children at risk of developing renal scars. These children should be carefully investigated, maintained on long-term quimioprophylaxis and followed.