When Your Child Needs a Voiding Cystourethrogram (VCUG)

Outline of torso showing front view of urinary tract. Two kidneys are in upper abdomen. Each kidney is connected by ureter to bladder which is in pelvis. One kidney in cross section to show inside. Bladder in cross section to show where ureters enter bladder. Urethra goes from bladder to outside body.

Voiding cystourethrogram (VCUG) is a test that uses X-rays to show the flow of urine through the urinary tract. It allows the healthcare provider to determine how your child’s bladder functions. It also shows if urine is flowing backward into the kidneys or if another urinary problem is present.

Before the test

  • Help your child change into a hospital gown.

  • Remove your child’s jewelry and glasses if they are worn.

  • Tell your child’s healthcare provider and the technician giving the test if your child is allergic to medicine or the contrast used for the test.

  • Tell the healthcare provider about any conditions or illnesses your child has had recently.

During the test

  • The test lasts about 30 minutes. You may be allowed to be with your child during the test.

  • For the test, your child lies on his or her back on an X-ray table. If your child is an infant or toddler, he or she may be wrapped in a blanket or another restraint to keep your child still during the test.

  • Several X-rays are taken. The X-rays may be seen on a video screen.

  • The genital area is cleaned with an antiseptic.

  • A thin, flexible tube called a catheter is then gently inserted into the urethra. The urethra is the tube that carries urine out of the body. This may cause discomfort for a moment. The catheter is then slowly passed into the bladder.

  • A special dye called contrast is put into the catheter to fill the bladder. The contrast makes the bladder show up clearly on the X-ray.

  • More X-rays are taken while the bladder is filled with contrast.

  • The catheter is removed and your child is asked to urinate. More X-rays are taken as the bladder empties.

After the test

  • Your child can get back to normal activities after the test.

  • If your child was given contrast, it will pass naturally within a day.

  • Have your child drink lots of water to help the dye pass out of the body.

  • Sometimes children will complain of difficulty or pain with urination after the test. Or you may see a small amount of blood in the urine. This is due to irritation from the tube that was placed in your child's urethra. If the symptoms are worsening or concerning you at home, call your child's healthcare provider.

Getting your child’s results

Your child’s healthcare provider will discuss the test results with you during a follow-up appointment or over the phone. Treatment options will also be discussed at this time if needed.