Voiding Cystourethrogram (VCUG)

What is a Voiding Cystourethrogram (VCUG)?

A voiding cystourethrography (VCUG) uses a type of X-ray called fluoroscopy to create a moving picture of your child's bladder while it empties.

This test evaluates the overall functioning of the bladder, urethra, and kidneys. It can also detect reflux, a condition in which urine backs up into the kidneys.

A physician may request a VCUG if your child has urinary tract infections, difficulty voiding, or has been diagnosed with neurogenic bladder (where urinary control is affected by a problem in the brain or spinal cord, or damage to the nerves).

How should I help my child get ready for the test?

There is no advance preparation necessary. On the day of the test, make sure your child is wearing comfortable clothes. He or she will may be asked to change into a gown before the procedure.

What happens during the test?

We will place a small flexible catheter (a hollow plastic tube) through the child’s urethra into the bladder. We will slowly inject a contrast dye through this tube until the bladder is full. Then we will ask your child to void onto an absorbent pad as we track this process with the fluoroscope.

How can I make my child comfortable during the test?

Though the catheter is narrower than the urethra, insertion may cause discomfort, especially if your child is tense or anxious. Occasionally, we may have to immobilize a child so we can position the catheter. We will wrap the legs with an ace bandage and ask you to hold your child’s hands to prevent fidgeting.

Many children, especially those who have recently been toilet trained, are embarrassed by having to void in front of a camera. It’s important to explain that this is what the test requires.

Younger children may also find the fluoroscope a bit intimidating. You can choose to be present during the whole exam, to offer comfort and reassurance. If so, you will need to wear a lead apron to protect yourself from unnecessary radiation.

We can also arrange for a child life specialist to be present to put your child at ease.

Are there any risks?

This X-ray test uses diagnosis radiation, but your child will be exposed to a minimal dose.

What happens after the test

A radiologist will analyze the images and your child’s doctor will explain the results.