Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)

A urinary tract infection (UTI) is an infection caused by bacteria (germs) getting into the urinary tract. The urinary tract is a term for those parts of the body involved in making and passing urine, which include the kidneys, bladder, ureters (tubes which connect the kidneys and bladder) and the urethra (tube through which the urine exits the body).

Urinary tract infections in children are fairly common and can affect the lower tract (bladder) or the upper tract (kidney). By 5 years old, about 8% of girls and 1-2% of boys have had at least one UTI.

 
What are the causes and signs of UTIs?

Some causes of UTIs in children include poor toilet and hygiene habits (not wiping from front to back or cleaning the bottom area thoroughly), the use of bubble baths or strongly scented soaps that can irritate the urethra and lead to holding onto urine, a family history of UTIs, or vesicoureteral reflux (VUR) when urine flows backwards from the bladder to the ureters and kidneys.

In older children, UTIs may cause obvious complaints such as burning or pain with urination (peeing) but UTIs may be harder to detect in infants and young children because symptoms are less specific.  

Be sure to contact your doctor if your child has any of these symptoms:
  • persistent fever of unknown cause [100.4° Fahrenheit (38° Celsius) rectally in infants, or over 101° Fahrenheit (38.3° Celsius) in children]
  • burning or pain when urinating
  • frequent or urgent urination, and frequent urination at night
  • strong-smelling, cloudy or bloody urine
  • abdominal (especially below the navel), back or side pain

Sometimes, a fever is the only sign of a UTI.

 
How are UTIs treated?

After performing a physical exam and asking about symptoms, your child’s primary care doctor will take a urine sample to check for and identify bacteria causing the infection.

If your child has a UTI, the infection will usually be treated with antibiotics to kill the bacteria. Your doctor may refer your child for additional tests and an appointment with our Nemours pediatric urologists who specialize in treating both simple and complex urologic problems in children.

Ultrasound: Renal (Kidneys, Ureters, Bladder)

What It Is

A renal ultrasound is a safe and painless test that uses sound waves to make images of the kidneys, ureters, and bladder.

The kidneys are a pair of bean-shaped organs located toward the back of the abdominal cavity, just above the waist. They remove waste products from the blood and produce urine. The ureters are thin tubes that carry the urine from the kidneys to the bladder.

During the examination, an ultrasound machine sends sound waves into the kidney area and images are recorded on a computer. The black-and-white images show the internal structure of the kidneys and related organs.

Why It's Done

Doctors order renal ultrasounds when there's a concern about certain types of kidney or bladder problems. Renal ultrasound tests can show:

  • the size of the kidneys
  • signs of injury to the kidneys
  • abnormalities present since birth
  • the presence of blockages or kidney stones
  • complications of a urinary tract infection (UTI)
  • cysts or tumors

Preparation

Usually, you don't have to do anything special to prepare for a renal ultrasound, although the doctor may ask that your child not eat or drink anything for several hours before the test.

You should tell the technician about any medications your child is taking before the test begins.

Procedure

The renal ultrasound will be done in the radiology department of a hospital or in a radiology center. Parents are usually able to accompany their child to provide reassurance and support. Your child will be asked to change into a cloth gown and lie on a table. The room is usually dark so the images can be seen clearly on the computer screen.

A technician (sonographer) trained in ultrasound imaging will spread a clear, warm gel on your child's abdomen over the kidney area. This gel helps with the transmission of the sound waves. The technician will then move a small wand (transducer) over the gel. The transducer emits high-frequency sound waves and a computer measures how the sound waves bounce back from the body. The computer changes those sound waves into images to be analyzed.

Sometimes a doctor will come in at the end of the test to meet your child and take a few more pictures. The procedure usually takes less than 30 minutes.

closeUp_ultrasound_illustration

What to Expect

The renal ultrasound test is painless. Your child may feel a slight pressure on the abdomen as the transducer is moved over it. You'll need to tell your child to lie still during the procedure so the sound waves can reach the area effectively. The technician may ask your child to lie in different positions or hold his or her breath briefly.

Babies might cry in the ultrasound room, especially if they're restrained, but this won't interfere with the procedure.

ultrasound_illustration

Getting the Results

A radiologist (a doctor who is specially trained in reading and interpreting X-ray and ultrasound images) will interpret the ultrasound results and then give the information to the doctor. You and your doctor will go over the results. If the test results appear abnormal, your doctor may order further tests.

In an emergency, the results of an ultrasound can be available within a short period of time. Otherwise, results are usually ready in 1-2 days. In most cases, results can't be given directly to the patient or family at the time of the test.

Risks

No risks are associated with a renal ultrasound. Unlike X-rays, radiation isn't involved with this test.

Helping Your Child

Some younger children may be afraid of the machinery used for the ultrasound test. Explaining in simple terms how the renal ultrasound test will be conducted and why it's being done can help ease your child's fears. You can tell your child that the equipment takes pictures of his or her kidneys.

Encourage your child to ask the technician questions and to try to relax during the procedure, as tense muscles can make it more difficult to get accurate results.

If You Have Questions

If you have questions about the renal ultrasound, speak with your doctor. You can also talk to the technician before the exam.

Reviewed by: Yamini Durani, MD
Date reviewed: March 2012