Voiding Cystourethrogram (VCUG)

Written by Amber Erickson Gabbey | Published on June 11, 2012
Medically Reviewed by George Krucik, MD

What Is Voiding Cystourethrogram?

In a voiding cystourethrogram (VCUG), an X-ray is taken while the bladder is being emptied (voided) to assess bladder and urethra function. Most commonly, your doctor will recommend a voiding cystourethrogram test to diagnose the cause of recurrent urinary tract or bladder infections.

The test may also be used to diagnose:

  • issues related to emptying the bladder
  • congenital problems with the bladder and/or urethra
  • constriction or abnormalities in the urethra
  • the problem of urine going up into the kidneys

What to Expect With a VCUG

The voiding cystourethrogram involves a catheter inserted into your urethra and an X-ray. Be sure to notify your doctor of any allergies and if you are pregnant. All jewelry must be removed for the X-ray.

Risks

The risks of voiding cystourethrogram testing include:

  • urinary tract infections
  • bladder spasms (because of the X-ray contrast solution)
  • allergic reaction to the contrast dye (including nausea, vomiting, and hot flashes)
  • painful urination (because of the catheter)
  • risk of exposure to radiation due to X-ray
  • cardiac arrest, breathing difficulties, or low blood pressure (in rare cases)

You may feel slight discomfort due to having a full bladder (from the contrast dye). In addition, you might feel pain or discomfort when the catheter is inserted.

Side Effects

Because of the catheter, you may have some discomfort or irritation while urinating for up to 48 hours after the procedure. Your urine may be a pinkish color for up to 48 hours after the procedure. Consult your doctor if your urine is red.

The Voiding Cystourethrogram Procedure

The voiding cystourethrogram test may be conducted at your doctor’s office.

The first stage of the test is the catheter insertion. The catheter is a soft tube that is inserted into the urethra and up into the bladder. A dye will then be injected into the catheter to help the doctor see the urethra and bladder on the X-rays.

X-rays are taken before the dye is introduced, while the bladder is full of the contrast dye. Once the X-ray of the full bladder is complete, the catheter will be removed. You will then urinate into a container so that X-rays can be taken of the bladder while it is emptying. The whole process takes about one hour.

Understanding Your Test Results

Normal results would show that the urethra and bladder are normal size and appear to be functioning properly.

Abnormal results could suggest the following:

  • enlarged prostate gland
  • constriction of the urethra
  • disorders of the bladder
  • disorders of the kidney
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