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Preparing for MIBG Scan


Your child is scheduled to have an MIBG scan. Doctors use this test to locate and confirm certain types of tumors. Some medicines, including over-the counter ones, can interfere with this scan. For your child’s safety, you must follow some important guidelines to prepare for the MIBG scan. Along with this handout, the clinic and pharmacy staff will discuss these guidelines with you.

How does this test work?

On the first appointment day, a Nuclear Medicine staff member will give your child an injection by vein or central line. The injection includes a compound with a small amount of radioactivity. It is called a radioisotope (ray dee oh EYE seh tope). Your child can go back to St. Jude housing after this injection. The radiation only lasts in your child’s body for a few days.

At the next day’s appointment, your child will lie on a table. The table will slowly move through a machine called a scanner. It will record pictures of the radiation given off by the radioisotope. This scan could last as long as one (1) to 2 hours depending on your child’s height.

Preparing early for the MIBG scan

For your child’s safety, please follow these guidelines that begin one (1) week before your child’s appointment.

For one (1) week before the MIBG injection

Some antidepressants, anti-nausea, blood pressure, and over-the-counter medicines interfere with the MIBG test. The list below contains some of these medicines:

Amitriptyline (Elavil®) Doxepin (Silenor®) Phenylephrine 
Bupropion (Wellbutrin®) Duloxetine (Cymbalta®) Pseudoephedrine (Sudafed®)
Desipramine (Norpramin®) Nortriptyline (Aventyl® or Pamelor®) Venlafaxine (Effexor®)

Many over-the-counter cold and cough medicines contain drugs, such as pseudoephedrine or phenylephrine, that interfere with the MIBG test. Please talk to your pharmacist before starting any prescription or over-the-counter medicines.

If your child takes any of the medicines listed above, do not stop giving them to your child on your own. You can expect a phone call from the St. Jude Pharmacy staff about 2 weeks before the MIBG injection to review your child’s medicines. The staff member will let you know if you should stop any of your child’s medicines. Also, you may call your child’s St. Jude doctor or nurse practitioner any time you have questions.

One medicine – labetolol (Trandate®) – should be avoided for at least 6 weeks before an MIBG injection. Tell the staff right away if your child takes this medicine. 

One day before the MIBG injection

Your child should start taking SSKI drops the day of the MIBG injection. These drops are an iodine solution that helps protect your child’s thyroid gland during the test. Your child must take these drops:

  • The day of the injection, at least one (1) hour before the injection and
  • The day of the scan.

If you do not have a pick-up appointment scheduled at the Pharmacy, please call your clinic to have the appointment scheduled. Please read the label on the bottle for dosage and directions.

If you stopped some medicines for the MIBG scan, do not start your child back on those medicines until after the scan is complete.

Other precautions

For mothers who are pregnant

 The radioisotope used for this test could harm your unborn child. If you must come with your child, please inform the Nuclear Medicine staff, and someone will talk to you about the risks related to being near the patient.

For parents traveling with siblings

If you are a parent traveling alone, you must not bring the patient’s brothers or sisters to the hospital with you. The Nuclear Medicine staff cannot allow siblings to go into the room with you and the patient during the injection or during scanning. The staff cannot watch your other children.

Avoiding treatment delays

By following the guidelines above, you can avoid delays in your child’s treatment. To help you comply, the  St. Jude Pharmacy staff will call you about 2 weeks before the MIBG injection to discuss all the medicines your child is taking. Please keep all the information you receive about the MIBG scan, so you can refer to it when needed. Please call your primary care clinic if you think your child will not be able to keep the scheduled appointment.


If you have questions or concerns about the MIBG scan before or after you hear from the Pharmacy staff, please call the St. Jude Pharmacy or talk to your child’s St. Jude clinic doctor or nurse practitioner. To reach a pharmacy staff member, call 901-595-4166. If you are calling from outside Memphis, dial toll-free 1-866-820-2442.


This document is not intended to take the place of the care and attention of your personal physician or other professional medical services. Our aim is to promote active participation in your care and treatment by providing information and education. Questions about individual health concerns or specific treatment options should be discussed with your physician.

St. Jude complies with health care-related federal civil rights laws and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability, or sex.

ATTENTION: If you speak another language, assistance services, free of charge, are available to you. Call 1-866-278-5833 (TTY: 1-901-595-1040).

ATENCIÓN: si habla español, tiene a su disposición servicios gratuitos de asistencia lingüística. Llame al 1-866-278-5833 (TTY: 1-901-595-1040).

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