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Voiding cystourethrogram

A voiding cystourethrogram is an x-ray study of the bladder and urethra that is done while the bladder is emptying.

Alternative Names

Cystourethrogram - voiding

How the test is performed

The test is performed in a hospital radiology department or in a health care provider's office by an x-ray technician.

You will lie on your back on the x-ray table. A thin, flexible tube called a catheter will be gently inserted into the urethra (the tube that carries urine from the bladder to the outside of the body) and passed into the bladder.

Contrast dye flows through the catheter into the bladder. This dye helps the bladder show up better on x-ray images.

The x-rays are taken from various angles while the bladder is full of contrast dye. The catheter is removed so that you can urinate. Images are taken while you empty your bladder.

How to prepare for the test

You must sign a consent form. You will be given a gown to wear.

Remove all jewelry before the test. Inform the health care provider if you are:

  • Allergic to any medications
  • Allergic to x-ray contrast material
  • Pregnant

How the test will feel

You may feel some discomfort when the catheter is placed and while your bladder is full.

Why the test is performed

This test may be done to diagnose the cause of urinary tract infections, especially in children who have had more than one urinary tract or bladder infection.

It is also used to diagnose and evaluate:

  • Difficulty emptying the bladder
  • Birth defects with the bladder or urethra
  • Narrowing of the tube that carries urine out of the bladder (urethral stricture ) in males
  • Urinary reflux from the bladder up into the kidney

Normal Values

The bladder and urethra will be normal in size and function.

What abnormal results mean

Abnormal results may indicate the following:

What the risks are

You may have some discomfort when urinating after this test because of irritation from the catheter.

You may have bladder spasms after this test, which may be a sign of an allergic reaction to the contrast dye. Contact your health care provider if bothersome bladder spasms occur.

References

Fulgham PF, Bishoff JT. Urinary tract imaging: Basic principles.In: Wein AJ, ed. Campbell-Walsh Urology. 10th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 4. 

Updated: 10/9/2012

David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc. Louis S. Liou, MD, PhD, Chief of Urology, Cambridge Health Alliance, Visiting Assistant Professor of Surgery, Harvard Medical School.


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