What is a Voiding Cystourethrogram?

Male Urinary Tract
Male Urinary Tract
Medical Illustration Copyright © 2015 Nucleus Medical Media, All rights reserved

Female Urinary Tract
Female Urinary Tract
Medical Illustration Copyright © 2015 Nucleus Medical Media, All rights reserved

Called a VCUG or cystogram, this test shows your doctor the size of your bladder and how well it can drain.

The test is also used to pinpoint anything abnormal about the urethra and the bladder. For example, it can find a problem with the narrowing of the urethra (stricture) or help uncover VUR (vesicoureteral reflux), a condition in which urine flows back up from the bladder through the ureter and into the kidney.



What Happens during VCUG?

This test is performed in a hospital or in a health care provider’s office. An x-ray technician supervised by a doctor does the job. You will need no special preparation.

First you will be asked to lie down on your back and to stay still. A basic x-ray of the abdomen and pelvis is taken. This helps the doctor decide on the best way to position the test.

Then a thin, flexible tube called a catheter is put through the urethra into the bladder. Dye is placed in the bladder through this tube. You may experience some discomfort when the catheter is inserted. As the bladder fills, x-rays are taken in different positions and times.

The catheter is taken out and more x-rays are taken while you pass urine into a container. Once your bladder is empty, a final x-ray is taken. The entire test takes about an hour.



What are the Risks?

While VCUG is mainly safe, some people react poorly to the iodine based dye. This is very rare because the dye goes into the bladder and not into the bloodstream.

Minor reactions include:

  • Hot flashes
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

These are most often treated successfully with antihistamines.

More serious side effects are:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Low blood pressure
  • Swelling of the mouth or throat
  • Cardiac arrest

There is also a chance of a urinary tract infection (as with any use of a catheter).

The radiation exposure during this test is relatively low. But women who are or may be pregnant should tell their doctor before the test.



What Happens after the Test?

You may feel slight pain when passing urine for up to 48 hours. Your urine may also be slightly pink. You can go back to daily activities as soon as the test is done. If the pain does not go away, if you have a fever, or if your urine is bright red, you should contact your doctor.