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Learning About Vesicoureteral Reflux (VUR) in Newborns

The urinary tract

What is VUR?

Vesicoureteral reflux (VUR) is the backward flow of urine from the bladder into the kidneys. Urine is supposed to flow from the kidneys through the ureters to the bladder. But when it flows backward, it can cause bacteria to reach your baby's kidneys. This could cause an infection or scarring.

VUR may be congenital problem. This means your baby was born with it. A fever is often the only symptom of VUR in infants. The problem is often found just after birth before you take the baby home. But sometimes it's discovered later. VUR ranges from mild to severe. Mild cases often need no treatment.

How is VUR diagnosed?

Before your baby is born, a prenatal ultrasound can detect VUR. An ultrasound uses sound waves to make a picture of the organs and blood vessels. The sound waves create a picture on a video screen. This test gives your doctor information about your baby's health.

If VUR is suspected after birth, your baby's urine is tested for a urinary tract infection (UTI). VUR can cause a UTI.

Your baby may have a cystogram (cystourethrogram). A cystogram is an X-ray test that takes pictures of your baby's bladder. To do the test, the doctor or nurse puts a thin, flexible tube in the opening of your child's urethra. This tube is called a catheter. Then he or she guides the catheter into your child's bladder. Next, the doctor or nurse puts a liquid into your child's bladder through the catheter. This liquid is called contrast material. It shows up well on X-ray pictures. When your child's bladder is full of contrast material, the doctor or X-ray technologist takes X-rays.

How is VUR treated?

Many children don't need treatment for VUR. The ureters grow as a child gets older. Mild cases of VUR often go away by the time a child is 5 years old.

If treatment is needed, your baby may get an antibiotic. Antibiotics prevent or treat infection.

Your baby may need ongoing antibiotic treatment. He or she may need tests to check for bacteria in the urine.

Severe cases of VUR may need surgery. A surgeon may create new valves for the ureters. The valves prevent the backflow of urine. Surgery may also be needed if your child has repeated urinary tract infections while taking antibiotics. Surgery may also be done if your baby isn't able to take antibiotics.

What can you expect?

The hospital staff is well prepared to care for babies with this condition. They will do everything they can to help. If you need it, ask for support from friends and family. You can also ask the hospital staff about counselling and support.

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 call line 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?

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