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Voiding Cystourethrogram (VCUG): Before Your Child's Test

What is a voiding cystourethrogram?

A voiding cystourethrogram (VCUG) is a test that is done to see if there are problems with the bladder or other parts of the urinary system. It uses contrast liquid and X-rays so the doctor can see the size of the bladder and how the bladder fills and drains.

This test may be used to check how well your child's bladder works. Or it may be used to find the cause of other problems, such as frequent urinary infections.

For this test, your child will be on an X-ray table. A standard X-ray will be taken. Your child's genital area will be cleaned, and a flexible, thin tube called a catheter will be put through your child's urethra and into the bladder. Next, your child's bladder will be filled through the catheter with a liquid that shows up well on X-ray pictures. X-rays will be taken while liquid is filling your child's bladder and as the bladder empties. If old enough, your child may be asked to stop urinating, change positions, and start to urinate again. A second bladder filling may be needed. The catheter will slip out by itself or be removed. Once your child's bladder is empty, a final X-ray will be taken.

Your child may find it uncomfortable when the catheter is put in. His or her bladder may feel very full. Some children also feel a need to urinate when the contrast material is put in.

Depending on your child's age, you may want to tell your child what to expect. You may want to ask the doctor about things you can do to help your child relax and feel more comfortable. You may be able to hold your child's hand or try to distract your child. If your child is too young to hold still, your child may be given medicine so he or she will feel relaxed for this test.

You probably will be able to take your child home right after the test. Your child can go back to his or her usual activities right away. But he or she may need to urinate more often for several days after the test. Your child may also have some burning during and after urination. This usually goes away after 1 or 2 days. Having your child drink fluids may help with any burning. It can also help prevent a urinary infection.

How do you prepare for the test?

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

Preparing for the test

  • Understand exactly what procedure is planned, along with the risks, benefits, and other options.
  • Tell the doctor ALL the medicines and natural health products your child takes. Some may increase the risk of problems during the procedure. Your doctor will tell you if your child should stop taking any of them before the procedure and how soon to do it.
  • Talk to your child about the test. Hospitals know how to take care of children. The staff will do all they can to make it easier for your child.
  • Tell the doctor if your child is allergic to iodine. Iodine is usually used in the contrast material that the doctor will put in your child's bladder.
  • Tell your doctor or nurse about any allergies your child has to medicines or latex.
  • For 1 week before the test, your child should not have any X-ray tests that use barium contrast material (such as a barium enema). Do not give your child any medicine that contains bismuth (such as Pepto-Bismol). Barium and bismuth show up on X-rays. This can make it hard to see the picture clearly.
  • Ask if a special tour of the operating area and hospital is available. This may make your child feel less nervous about what happens.
  • If your child has symptoms of a urinary infection (such as burning with urination) close to the test date, call your doctor or nurse advice line as soon as possible. You may need to wait to have the test until after you treat the infection.

What happens on the day of the test?

  • Be sure your child has something that reminds him or her of home. A special stuffed animal, toy, or blanket may be comforting. For an older child, it might be a book or music.

At the hospital or surgery centre

  • A parent or legal guardian must accompany your child.
  • The doctor or nurse may give your child medicine to help him or her relax.
  • The doctor or nurse may ask your child to urinate just before the test begins.
  • The nurse will clean your child's genital area before putting in the catheter.
  • A nurse or nurses may need to hold your child still during the test. You can help keep your child calm or distracted if you talk to him or her.
  • The test will take about 30 to 60 minutes.
  • You will probably be able to take your child home right away.

When should you call your doctor?

  • You have questions or concerns.
  • You don't understand how to prepare your child for the test.
  • Your child becomes ill before the test [such as fever, influenza (flu), a cold, or a urinary infection].
  • You need to reschedule or have changed your mind about your child having the test.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.