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Voiding Cystourethrogram (VCUG): About This Test

What is it?

A voiding cystourethrogram (say "sis-toh-you-REE-throh-gram") 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 is also called a VCUG.

Why is this test done?

This test is done to:

  • Find the cause of urinary problems. These include repeated urinary tract infections and not being able to control when you urinate (urinary incontinence).
  • Look for injuries to the bladder or urethra.
  • Look for an enlarged prostate.

In children, this test is often done to check for a backflow of urine. Normally, urine goes from the kidney through the ureters to the bladder. If your child has a backflow of urine, it means that the urine goes from the bladder back into the ureters.

How can you prepare for the test?

Tell your doctor if:

  • You are or might be pregnant.
  • You have symptoms of a urinary tract infection. These include having pain or burning when you urinate, dribbling urine, and having reddish to pinkish urine or cloudy urine.
  • You are allergic to any medicines or have had a very serious allergic reaction. These can happen to people after being stung by a bee or eating shellfish.
  • You are allergic to the iodine dye (contrast material) used in the test or anything else with iodine in it.

What happens during the test?

  • The nurse will ask you to take off all or most of your clothes. Then you will cover yourself with a cloth or paper covering.
  • You will urinate just before the test starts.
  • You will lie on your back on an X-ray table. Your genital area will be cleaned and covered with towels.
  • The doctor will put a flexible, thin tube through your urethra and into your bladder. This tube is called a catheter.
  • The doctor will put a liquid into your bladder through the catheter. This liquid is called contrast material. It shows up well on X-ray pictures.
  • X-rays will be taken while you stand up, sit up, and lie down.
  • The doctor will remove the catheter, and you will urinate into a bedpan or urinal. X-rays will be taken while you urinate.
  • The doctor may ask you to stop urinating, change positions, and start urinating again.

This test usually takes 30 to 45 minutes.

What else should you know about the test?

  • It can be uncomfortable to have a catheter put in.
  • Your bladder may feel very full. You may also feel like you need to urinate when the contrast material is put in.
  • You may feel embarrassed to urinate in front of other people. But the room will probably be darkened. And you may be partly hidden from the doctor and nurse behind the X-ray machine.
  • You may be sore afterward. Soaking in a warm tub may help.
  • You may need to urinate more often for several days after the test. You may also notice some burning during and after urination. This usually goes away after 1 or 2 days.
  • After the test, drink plenty of fluids, enough so that your urine is light yellow or clear like water. If you have kidney, heart, or liver disease and have to limit fluids, talk with your doctor before you increase the amount of fluids you drink. Fluids can help with burning. They can also help prevent a urinary infection.

What happens after the test?

  • You may get some results right after the test. You should get final results in 1 to 2 days.
  • You will probably be able to go home right away.
  • You can go back to your usual activities right away.

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 keep a list of the medicines you take. Ask your doctor when you can expect to have your test results.

Where can you learn more?

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