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Voiding Cystourethrogram (Bladder Emptying X-Ray)

What is a voiding cystourethrogram?

A voiding cystourethrogram (VCUG) is a test that uses a dye and X-rays to take pictures of the bladder and urethra during urination (voiding). It shows how well the bladder and its connecting tubes (the ureters and urethra) are working. The ureters are the tubes that drain urine from the kidneys to the bladder. The urethra is the tube that drains urine from the bladder to outside the body.

When is it used?

This test may be done to see if:

  • A problem with the shape or size of the bladder or urethra is causing repeat urinary tract infections.

You may choose not to have this test. Ask your healthcare provider about your choices for treatment and the risks.

How do I prepare for this test?

Tell your healthcare provider if your child has had any kidney problems or reactions to iodine-containing foods or chemicals, such as seafood or X-ray contrast dye.

What happens during the test?

The procedure may be done in your healthcare provider’s office, outpatient center, or hospital.

Your child may be given medicine to help him or her relax during the test.

First an X-ray will be taken of the abdominal (belly) area. Then, a urinary catheter (a small, thin, soft tube) will be inserted into the bladder. It will be inserted through the opening where urine comes out (the urethra).

The catheter will be used to fill the bladder with a special clear liquid called contrast dye. The dye is easy to see on X-rays. X-ray pictures are taken and viewed on a television screen by the radiologist. More X-rays will be taken while your child urinates.

Your child may be less afraid if you explain what will happen before the procedure. Depending on the age of your child, you may use books, demonstration, or dolls. The radiologist may ask if you want to stay during this procedure to give comfort to your child. It’s a good idea to bring toys to help your child relax during the insertion of the catheter.

What happens after the test?

After the test, your child can go back to normal daily activities.

Your child's urine may be pink the first time he or she urinates after the catheter tube is removed. This is caused by a small amount of blood in the urine. Your child may also cry and complain of pressure. Usually by drinking a couple of large glasses of water or other clear liquids the child can urinate without a problem. If the child complains of a mild burning, place him or her in a bathtub of warm, plain water to urinate.

Ask your healthcare provider:

  • How and when you will hear the test results
  • How long it will take to recover
  • What activities your child should avoid
  • How to take care of your child at home and when your child can return to normal activities
  • What symptoms or problems you should watch for and what to do if your child has them

Make sure you know when you should come back for a checkup.

What are the risks of this procedure?

Your healthcare provider will explain the test and any risks. Some possible risks include:

  • Your child may have an infection or bleeding.
  • Rarely, your child may have a reaction to the dye.

Every procedure or treatment has risks. Ask your healthcare provider how these risks apply to your child. Be sure to discuss any other questions or concerns that you may have.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Pediatric Advisor 2013.2 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2012-02-01
Last reviewed: 2011-09-24
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
© 2013 RelayHealth and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved.
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