After the patient's bladder is filled with a liquid called contrast material, an X-ray machine sends beams of radiation through the abdomen and pelvis, and images are recorded on special film or a computer. These images help doctors see problems in parts of the urinary system, including the bladder, urethra (the tube connecting the bladder with the outside of the body), and the ureters (the tubes connecting the kidneys to the bladder).
A radiologist takes the X-rays using a technique called fluoroscopy. While the contrast material fills your child's bladder, and then while your child empties the bladder, the radiologist watches an onscreen X-ray video of the liquid moving through the urinary system and a series of X-ray films is recorded.
In general, X-rays are very safe. Although there is some risk to the body with any exposure to radiation, the amount used in a VCUG is small and not considered dangerous. It's important to know that Nemours radiologists use the minimum amount of radiation required to perform the study properly.
What does a VCUG show?
A VCUG can show whether the urine is moving in the right direction. Normally, urine flows from the kidneys down to the bladder through the ureters. When urine goes back up toward the kidneys, it's called vesicoureteral reflux (VUR), which a VCUG can detect. Sometimes VUR only occurs while urinating (voiding), which is why the VCUG includes taking X-ray images while the bladder is being emptied.
At times, fear, anxiety, and developmental stage of a child contribute to his or her ability to cooperate with medical procedures. Pediatric procedural sedation can be used to decrease discomfort and anxiety for your child.
Sedation is available for VCUG and a separate sedation appointment would be needed to be scheduled prior to the study.
Providing sedation means a child is given medicine to make the child more relaxed. When a child is sedated, he or she may better tolerate a medical procedure and will probably not remember it.
The sedation team aims for mild to moderate sedation, meaning that your child will be relaxed, but awake enough to answer questions and to sense a full bladder. Typical sedatives for this procedure include midazolam (Versed), given orally or as a nasal spray, or nitrous oxide (“laughing gas”) given with a mask. This procedure takes about 10 minutes for catheter placement and bladder filling, and another few minutes for the child to urinate.
A urine dipstick test is often done as part of an overall urinalysis, but it also can be done on its own, depending on the doctor's concerns.
Once a urine sample is collected, a nurse or technician will place a specially treated chemical strip (dipstick) into your child's urine (pee). Patches on the dipstick will change color to indicate the presence of such things as white blood cells, protein, or glucose.
Why It's Done
The results of a urine dipstick test may point to a diagnosis of urinary tract infection (UTI), kidney disease, diabetes, or a urinary tract injury. If test results are abnormal, other tests will be needed before a definite diagnosis can be made.
No preparation other than cleansing the area around the urinary opening is required for the urine dipstick test.
Your child will be asked to urinate into a clean sample cup in the doctor's office. If your child isn't potty trained and can't urinate into a cup, a catheter (a narrow, soft tube) may need to be inserted into the bladder to obtain the urine specimen.
The skin surrounding the urinary opening has to be cleaned and rinsed just before the urine is collected. In this "clean-catch" method, you or your child cleans the skin around the urinary opening with a special towelette. The child then urinates, stops momentarily, and then urinates again into the collection container. Catching the urine in "midstream" is the goal. Be sure to wash your hands and your child's hands after this process.
Sometimes, if the doctor is concerned about a urinary problem that isn't due to an infection, a urine collection bag might be used to collect a sample from an infant. If you're doing the collection at home, you'll clean your baby's genital area and then arrange the bag around the urinary opening. Once the bag is in place, you'll secure it with the attached adhesive tape. You can put a diaper on your baby after you've attached the bag. You'll be instructed on how to remove the bag once your baby has urinated into it, usually within an hour.
Sometimes, if the doctor is concerned about a urinary problem that isn't due to an infection, a urine collection bag with adhesive tape on one end might be used to collect a sample from an infant. If you're doing the collection at home, you'll clean your baby's genital area and then arrange the bag around the urinary opening. Once the bag is in place, you'll secure it with the attached tape. You can put a diaper on your baby after you've attached the bag. You'll be instructed on how to remove the bag once your baby has urinated into it, usually within an hour.
Once collected, the technician or nurse will then place the dipstick into the urine sample. Collecting the specimen should only take a few minutes.
What to Expect
Because the test involves normal urination, there shouldn't be any discomfort as long as your child can provide a urine specimen. It's important to keep the area around the urinary opening clean before the test and to catch the urine sample midstream.
Getting the Results
The results of the urine dipstick test will be available right away. If abnormalities are found, further urine tests will be needed. Talk to your child's doctor about the meaning of the specific test results.
No risks are associated with taking a urine dipstick test. If a catheterized specimen is required, it may cause temporary discomfort.
Helping Your Child
The urine dipstick test is painless. Explaining how the test will be conducted, and why it's being done, can help ease your child's fear. Make sure your child understands that the urinary opening must be clean and the urine must be collected midstream.
If You Have Questions
If you have questions about the urine dipstick test, speak with your doctor.
Reviewed by: Yamini Durani, MD
Date reviewed: April 28, 2017