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

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What is a voiding cystourethrogram?

A voiding cystourethrogram (VCUG) is an X-ray test. It takes pictures of your child's bladder and urethra while he or she urinates. 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 child's bladder works. Or it may be used to find the cause of other problems, such as frequent urinary infections.

A doctor called a radiologist does the test. A person trained to take X-rays may help the doctor. He or she is called an X-ray technologist.

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 that shows up well on X-ray pictures into your child's bladder through the catheter. This liquid is called contrast material. When your child's bladder is full of contrast material, the doctor or X-ray technologist takes X-rays. Some of them may be in different positions. These include standing, sitting, and lying down. After that, the catheter is removed and your child urinates into a bedpan, urinal, or towel. This empties the contrast material from your child's bladder. While your child urinates, more X-rays are 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.

Some children may feel embarrassed to urinate in front of other people. 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. A nurse or nurses may need to hold your child still while the doctor puts the catheter in and takes the X-rays.

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. If your child drinks lots of fluids, it can help with any burning. It can also help prevent a urinary infection.

What happens before 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 test is planned, along with the risks, benefits, and other options.
  • Tell the doctors ALL the medicines and natural health products your child takes. Some of these can increase the risk of bleeding or interact with anesthesia. Your doctor will tell you which medicines your child should take or stop before the test.
  • 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 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-ray films. 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 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.

Going home

  • When you leave the hospital, you will get more information about how to take care of your child at home.
  • The doctor or nurse will tell you when your child can start normal activities again.

When should you call your doctor?

Before the test

  • 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, flu, a cold, or a urinary infection).
  • You need to reschedule or have changed your mind about your child having the test.

After the test

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

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 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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Current as of: May 12, 2017