A cystogram uses contrast dye to create pictures of the:
- Ureters—tubes that carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder
- Urethra—the tube that carries urine from the bladder to outside of the body
The Urinary Tract
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A cystogram helps your doctor gain more information about the urinary system. For example, if you are having urine leakage, your doctor may be able to find the cause.
A cystogram can also be used to diagnose conditions like:
- Vesicoureteral reflux
—urine flows from the bladder back towards the kidneys
- Bladder distention—enlargement of the bladder
- Bladder irregularities, such as bladder cancer and incomplete voiding
Problems from the test are rare. However, all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, like:
- Urinary tract infection
due to the catheter being inserted
- Bleeding due to the catheter being inserted
- Discomfort during urination, which may last several hours
- Allergic reaction to the contrast dye
Talk to your doctor about these risks before the procedure.
There are no special steps to take before a cystogram. Nevertheless, it is important that you tell your doctor if you:
- Are pregnant or breastfeeding
flu, or have recently been around people who are sick
- Are allergic to contrast dye
- Take diabetes medicine
You will be asked to lie on a table. A catheter will be inserted into the urethra and positioned into the bladder. A contrast dye will travel through the catheter and into the bladder to fill it. When your bladder is full, x-rays will be taken of the ureters, bladder, and urethra. You will be asked to remain still while the images are taken. You may also need to move into different positions.
If your doctor needs to see how your urethra is functioning, you may be asked to urinate into a bedpan while x-rays are taken. Additional images may be needed after you have emptied your bladder.
When all the images have been taken, the catheter will be removed.
You may have some discomfort when:
- The catheter is placed into the urethra
- The contrast dye goes into the bladder
You will be able to go home after the test.
When you return home, take these steps:
- Resume your normal activities.
- Drink plenty of fluids. This will help flush the contrast dye from your bladder.
You may notice a small amount of blood in your urine and have some discomfort during urination. These are common side effects after a cystogram. They will go away within a few hours.
Your doctor should have the results in a few days. Be sure to follow-up with your doctor.
Call your doctor if any of these occur:
- Blood in the urine that lasts longer than expected
- Discomfort during urination that lasts longer than expected
- Inability to urinate
If you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.
Cystogram. Children’s Hospital of Chicago website. Available at:
http://luriechildrens.org/en-us/care-services/conditions-treatments/medical-imaging-radiology/Pages/basics/nuclear-medicine-scans/cystogram/cystogram.aspx. Accessed May 9, 2013.
Cystogram. Hurley Medical Center website. Available at:
http://hurleymc.com/services/services/radiology-services/diagnostic-radiology/fluoroscopy/cystogram. Accessed May 9, 2013.
Cystogram. PeaceHealth website. Available at:
http://www.peacehealth.org/peace-harbor/services/imaging-services/radiology/Pages/cystogram.aspx. Accessed May 9, 2013.
Cystogram or voiding cystogram (VCUG). Conemaugh Health System website. Available at:
http://www.conemaugh.org/template_article.aspx?id=8210. Accessed May 9, 2013.
Radionuclide cystogram. American Urological Association website. Available at:
http://www.urologyhealth.org/urology/index.cfm?article=81. Updated January 2011. Accessed May 9, 2013.
Schedule test: cystogram, voiding cystouretrhrogram or incontinence cystogram. PennMedicine website. Available at:
http://www.uphs.upenn.edu/radiology/patient/docs/Cystogram.pdf. Accessed May 9, 2013.
Your urinary system and how it works. National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NKUDIC) website. Available at:
http://kidney.niddk.nih.gov/kudiseases/pubs/Yoururinary. Updated June 29, 2012. Accessed May 9, 2013.
Last reviewed March 2014 by Adrienne Carmack, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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