Milk Scan for Gastro-Esophageal Reflux

What is a milk scan?

MILK Scan Image A milk scan is a test that can determine if your child has gastro-esophageal reflux. It can also measure the rate at which the stomach empties.

We do this test by mixing a radiopharmaceutical with milk, breast milk or formula that your child will drink. This "tracer" is medicine combined with a small amount of radioactive material. It travels to the area of your child we need to see and is detected and imaged by a gamma camera.

Radiopharmaceuticals are carefully tested. The risk of side effects is extremely small. Most radiopharmaceuticals used in nuclear medicine studies give less radiation exposure than a day at the beach.

What should you do prior to the exam?

  • Your child cannot have anything to eat or drink for four hours prior to the test.
  • Your child should not receive barium (radiographic contrast agent) 24 hours prior to the test.
  • Bring 8 ounces of milk, breast milk or formula with you.
  • Dress your child comfortably, in clothes that are easily removed. Your child may be given a gown to change into for the procedure.
  • We have a large variety of video entertainment to choose from. Your child may bring a favorite movie to watch during the exam.
  • You may want to bring a snack or drink for your child to have after the exam.

Note: Parents will be allowed to accompany their child into the exam room. It may be helpful to make other arrangements for siblings.

What should you expect during the exam?

  • The technologist will ask why the Milk Scan is being done and will explain the study to you and your child.
  • We will mix a small amount of radioactive material into the milk, breast milk or formula that you brought from home. There are no side effects and the medicine will not change the taste of the milk.
  • Your child will drink 2 to 8 ounces of the milk in 10 minutes. We will work with you if your child has special needs.
  • We will begin the scan while your child is swallowing and will continue for approximately one hour. Your child will lay on her back on the table with the camera underneath her.
  • If your child has a history of problems with swallowing, a Radiology Nurse will insert a special tube called an NG tube (nasogastric). The tube is inserted through the nose and ends in the stomach. The liquid will be injected through the tube for the exam.
  • We do not sedate for this procedure.

If you’d like, our child life specialists will help you prepare and support your child during the procedure. We can also arrange to have a child life specialist at your child's appointment to explain the procedure in developmentally appropriate ways and to help your child better cope with the stress of the hospital experience.

What should you do after the exam?

There are no special instructions for your child to follow after the exam.

Test results

The images from your child's exam are interpreted on the same day and a report is sent to your physician's office.

Your physician may call 215-590-2584 with questions about the exam.