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Voiding Cystourethrogram (VCUG): Before Your Procedure

Female and male urinary tracts

What is a voiding cystourethrogram?

A voiding cystourethrogram (VCUG) is an X-ray test. It takes pictures of your bladder and urethra while you urinate. The urethra is the tube that carries urine from the bladder to the outside of the body. This test may be used to check how well your bladder works. Or it may be used to find the cause of problems with your bladder or urethra. It is done by a doctor called a radiologist. A person who is trained to take X-rays, called an X-ray technologist, may help the doctor during the test.

The doctor or a nurse will guide a thin, flexible tube through your urethra into your bladder. This tube is called a catheter. Then the doctor will put a liquid called contrast material into your bladder through the catheter. This liquid shows up well on X-ray pictures. When your bladder is full of contrast material, the doctor or X-ray technologist will take X-rays while you are in different positions. You may stand up, sit, and lie down, for example. Then the doctor or nurse will take out the catheter. You will be asked to urinate into a bedpan or urinal. This will empty the contrast material from your bladder. The doctor or X-ray technologist will take more X-rays while you urinate.

You will be awake for the test. You may find it uncomfortable when the catheter is put in. Your bladder may feel very full. And you may have an urge to urinate when the contrast material is put in. You may feel embarrassed to urinate in front of other people, but your doctor understands this. It may help to know that the room will probably be darkened. You may be partly hidden from the doctor and nurse behind the X-ray machine. If you start to feel embarrassed, try to take deep, slow breaths.

You will be able to go home right after the test. You can go back to your usual activities right away. You may need to urinate more often for a few days after the test. You may also notice some burning during and after you urinate. This usually goes away after 1 or 2 days. Drink lots of fluids to help relieve the burning. This also helps prevent a urinary infection.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

What happens before the test?

Having a test can be stressful. This information will help you understand what you can expect. And it will help you safely prepare for your test.

Preparing for the test

  • Understand exactly what test is planned, along with the risks, benefits, and other options.
  • Tell your doctor if you are or might be pregnant. Your doctor may not do the test if you are pregnant. That's because the X-rays could harm an unborn baby.
  • Tell your doctor if you are allergic to iodine. Iodine is used in the contrast material that the doctor will put in your bladder.
  • Tell your doctors ALL the medicines and natural health products you take. Some of these can increase the risk of bleeding or interact with anesthesia.
  • If you take aspirin or some other blood thinner, ask your doctor if you should stop taking it before your procedure. Make sure that you understand exactly what your doctor wants you to do. These medicines increase the risk of bleeding.
  • Your doctor will tell you which medicines to take or stop before your test. You may need to stop taking certain medicines a week or more before the test. So talk to your doctor as soon as you can.
  • If you have an advance care plan, let your doctor know. Bring a copy to the hospital. If you don't have one, you may want to prepare one. It lets your doctor and loved ones know your health care wishes. Doctors advise that everyone prepare these papers before any type of surgery or procedure.
  • You may need to use an enema to empty your bowels before the test. Your doctor will tell you how to do this.

What happens on the day of the test?

  • Take off all jewellery and piercings. And take out contact lenses, if you wear them.

At the hospital or surgery centre

  • Bring a picture ID.
  • The test will take about 30 to 60 minutes.

Going home

  • You will be given more specific instructions about recovering from your test.

When should you call your doctor?

Before the test

  • You have questions or concerns.
  • You don't understand how to prepare for your procedure.
  • You become ill before the procedure (such as fever, flu, or a cold).
  • You need to reschedule or have changed your mind about having the procedure.

After the test

  • You can't urinate.
  • After 2 days, you still have blood in your urine. It is normal for your urine to be pink for 1 or 2 days after the test.
  • You have symptoms of a urinary infection, which can include:
    • Blood or pus in your urine.
    • Pain in your back just below your rib cage. This is called flank pain.
    • A fever, chills, or body aches.
    • Pain when you urinate.
    • Groin or belly pain.
  • You are not feeling better day by day.

Where can you learn more?

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