Gastro-oesophageal reflux scan (known as a ‘milk’ scan), is a test that can determine if your child has reflux (abnormal return of stomach contents back up the food pipe). It can also measure how fast the stomach empties.

We run this test by mixing a small amount of radioactive material (known as a ‘tracer’) with milk, breast milk or formula or, in the case of an older child, a soft drink of his or her choice.

The tracer is a material that is not absorbed by the stomach. When combined with the drink, it will travel through your child’s stomach and intestines. We can then take pictures using a special camera as it passes through. If there is any reflux, this will be shown in the pictures.

Special instructions for parents

If you are the child’s mother and if you are pregnant, let us know before the scan starts. If you are pregnant, we may ask another person to assist with your child’s scan.

Unless you need to, please do not bring other children to the department.

How to prepare for the scan 

  1. We will ask you to regulate your child’s feeds so that she or he is hungry enough to accept the drink
  2. On the day of your child’s appointment, bring your chosen liquid of up to 500ml for your child to drink
  3. Bring along any of your child’s favourite films, as we can show it on a portable player to entertain them during the scan.

On the day, we will discuss with you the amount of liquid your child will be asked to drink. This is dependent on his or her age and if he or she has any difficulties with feeding.

What happens?

  1. On arrival, we will take the milk or drink you have brought with you and add the tracer to it
  2. We will ask your child to drink the liquid; this can be done slowly over a period of five minutes if necessary. An absorbent material will be provided and placed on your child’s lap, or yours if you are holding the child, in case any liquid is spilled
  3. Once your child has finished the drink, he or she will be asked to lie on our scanner couch for one hour while the camera takes pictures. Your child will need to be as still as possible during the scan. We encourage you to help us keep them still by being present throughout the process, in addition to showing a film on a portable player
  4. Once this part of the test has finished, you can leave the department. We usually ask you to return one hour later so that we can take one further picture. This should only take about a minute.

Special feeding needs

If your child is fed through a feeding tube (nasogastric (NG) tube), we can use this. However, we will need to take a small amount of fluid from it to do a pH test to make sure that the tube is properly positioned in the stomach before we go ahead with the scan.

After the procedure

We will check the quality of your scan during your one-hour break, then you are free to leave the department.

There are no side effects from the injection, so it will not make your child feel sleepy.

There is no need to make any changes to your child’s routine, as the radiation dose from this procedure is very small. Your child can eat and drink normally after the test.

There are currently no related conditions associated with this test.

Royal Brompton nuclear medicine

Level 3, Chelsea Wing, Sydney Street


Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm

Tel: 020 7351 8666 / 9
Fax: 020 7351 8668

Patient advice line: 020 7351 8667
If you have any questions or concerns about the scan please call our patient advice line.
It is an answerphone service – leave a message and we will call you back within 24 hours.

Department head

Kshama Wechalekar