Intravenous Pyelogram (IVP): About This Test

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Female and male urinary systems

What is it?

An intravenous pyelogram (IVP) is an X-ray test that provides pictures of the kidneys, the bladder, and the ureters (urinary tract). During IVP, a dye called contrast material is injected into a vein in your arm. A series of X-ray pictures are then taken at timed intervals.

Why is this test done?

An IVP is done to:

  • Identify diseases of the urinary tract, such as kidney stones, tumours, or infection.
  • Look for problems with the structure of the urinary tract.
  • Find the cause of blood in the urine.
  • Look for damage to the urinary tract after an injury.

How can you prepare for the test?

Tell your doctor if:

  • You are or might be pregnant.
  • You are allergic to the iodine dye used as the contrast material for X-ray tests or to anything else that contains iodine.
  • You have ever had a serious allergic reaction (anaphylaxis), such as after being stung by a bee or from eating shellfish.
  • You have asthma or allergies of any kind, such as hay fever or food allergies.

What happens before the test?

  • You will be asked to remove any jewellery that might interfere with the X-ray picture.
  • You will take off all or most of your clothes. You will be given a cloth or paper covering to use during the test.
  • You will be asked to urinate just before the test starts.

What happens during the test?

  • You will lie on your back on an X-ray table. An X-ray picture of your belly will be taken. The doctor will review it before the next part of the test starts.
  • The injection site on your arm will be cleaned. The dye will be injected into a vein. The dye travels through the bloodstream, is filtered out by the kidneys, and passes into the urine. The urine then flows into the tubes (ureters) that lead to the bladder.
  • X-ray pictures are taken several minutes apart as the dye goes through the urinary tract. Each picture is looked at right away. Sometimes more pictures are taken based on earlier ones. You may be asked to turn from side to side or to hold several different positions so the doctor can take a complete series of X-rays.
  • A special type of X-ray technique called fluoroscopy may also be used during IVP. During fluoroscopy, a continuous X-ray beam is used to display a moving image on a video screen.

What else should you know about the test?

  • If you breastfeed your baby, it's safe to do so after having this test. The amount of dye that gets into your breast milk is tiny and will not harm your baby.
  • There is always a slight chance of damage to cells or tissue from radiation, including the low levels of radiation used for this test. But the chance of damage from the X-rays is usually very low compared with the benefits of the test.
  • There is slight risk of having an allergic reaction to the dye. The reaction can be mild, such as itching or a rash. Or it can be severe, such as trouble breathing or sudden shock. Most reactions can be controlled with medicine.

How long does the test take?

  • The test will take about an hour.

What happens after the test?

  • Drink plenty of liquids to help flush the dye out of your body.

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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