Urology Care Foundation The Official Foundation of the American Urological Association

Urology Care Foundation The Official Foundation of the American Urological Association

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Get the facts. And the help you need.

Retrograde Urethrogram

This diagnostic test is commonly performed in male patients in whom trauma or narrowing of the urethra is suspected.

This test is performed in a hospital radiology department, operating room or in a health care provider's office by an X-ray technician under a physician's supervision. There is no special preparation required. The patient lies on his side and a preliminary film of the urethra and bladder is obtained prior to injection of a contrast agent (dye). This helps the physician determine the proper radiographic technique and patient positioning. Dye is injected directly into the urethra and X-rays are obtained.

The patient may experience some discomfort during injection of the dye. After the study, there may be a slight discomfort when urinating for up to 48 hours and the urine may be slightly pink but the patient can resume their daily activities immediately following this test. If discomfort persists, fever develops or urine appears bright red, a physician should be notified.

While a urethrogram is considered generally safe, the major risk involves a reaction to the iodine-based dye. Minor reactions include hot flashes, nausea and vomiting. These are usually treated successfully with antihistamines, drugs that reduce the effects of the body's inflammatory compound, histamine. In very rare circumstances, more severe complications — breathing difficulties, low blood pressure, swelling of the mouth or throat and even cardiac arrest — can occur. There may be additional problems like a urinary tract infection.



Reviewed January 2011

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Retrograde Urethrogram Glossary
  • antihistamine: Drug that blocks cell receptors for histamine, either to prevent allergic effects like sneezing and itching or to reduce the rate of certain secretions in the stomach.

  • bladder: The bladder is a thick muscular balloon-shaped pouch in which urine is stored before being discharged through the urethra.

  • gene: The basic unit capable of transmitting characteristics from one generation to the next.

  • histamine: A hormone transmitter involved in local immune response regulating stomach acid production and in allergic reactions.

  • infection: A condition resulting from the presence of bacteria or other microorganisms.

  • inflammatory: Characterized or caused by swelling, redness, heat and/or pain produced in an area of the body as a result of irritation, injury or infection.

  • ions: Electrically charged atoms.

  • radiographic: X-ray.

  • radiographic technique: Procedure for taking an X-ray.

  • urethra: A tube that carries urine from the bladder to the outside of the body. In males, the urethra serves as the channel through which semen is ejaculated and it extends from the bladder to the tip of the penis. In females, the urethra is much shorter than in males.

  • urinary: Relating to urine.

  • urinary tract: The system that takes wastes from the blood and carries them out of the body in the form of urine. Passageway from the kidneys to the ureters, bladder and urethra.

  • urinary tract infection: Also referred to as UTI. An illness caused by harmful bacteria, viruses or yeast growing in the urinary tract.

  • urine: Liquid waste product filtered from the blood by the kidneys, stored in the bladder and expelled from the body through the urethra by the act of urinating (voiding). About 96 percent of which is water and the rest waste products.

  • urology: Branch of medicine concerned with the urinary tract in males and females and with the genital tract and reproductive system of males.

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