What Is an Intravenous Pyelogram?

X-rays are best known for their use in evaluating broken bones. However, they can also be used to look at different parts of the body.

An intravenous pyelogram (IVP) is a test that uses an X-ray and dye to show your kidneys and urinary tract. It takes images of your kidneys, bladder, and ureters. The ureters are the tubes that carry urine from your kidneys to your bladder.

If you are having urinary tract problems or abdominal pain, your doctor might order an IVP. An IVP can be done in your doctor’s office by an X-ray technician. It can also be done in a hospital.

Your doctor may order an IVP if you have signs of a kidney problem. These include pain in your side or back, or blood in your urine.

An IVP can help diagnose:

  • infections of your bladder and kidney
  • bladder and kidney stones
  • tumors
  • an enlarged prostrate
  • abdominal injury
  • blockages in your urinary tract

IVPs are still performed. However, computed tomography (CT) scans are now the preferred way to examine the urinary system. These scans take less time to perform. They are also able to provide alternate views of the system.

Drinking lots of fluid the day before your test can help get your kidneys ready to excrete the dye.

Before having an IVP, tell your doctor if:

  • you could be pregnant
  • you have allergies, especially to iodine or seafood
  • you have ever had an adverse reaction to X-ray dye (contrast dye)

If you have diabetes and take insulin, you should ask your doctor whether or not you should take insulin the day of the test.

You will have to eat a special diet the night before your appointment. This is to minimize solid stools in your large intestine. Stools can make it harder to read the X-rays. You may also be instructed to take a laxative the day before the test and to limit your dinner to clear liquids.

After you empty your bladder, an intravenous line will be put in your arm or hand. Your doctor or nurse will then inject the contrast dye into the line. You will be asked to lie on an exam table, and an X-ray camera above you will take initial pictures.

As the dye is injected, you may feel tingling. It may feel like you are urinating. This is normal. You may also have a metallic taste in your mouth.

A new X-ray picture will be taken every few minutes for 30 to 60 minutes. The series of pictures will track the dye as it moves through your kidneys and ureters into your bladder. Before each picture is taken, you will need to hold your breath. Right before the last picture, you will be asked to empty your bladder again. This last picture will show how well your bladder has emptied.

After the IVP is over, you can resume a normal diet. Drinking more fluids can help your body excrete the dye.

There are some small risks associated with an IVP.

The contrast dye can affect your kidney function. This is usually temporary, but a few people have permanent damage. There is also a chance you might react to the dye, even if you have never had an allergic reaction before.

You are also minimally exposed to radiation from the X-ray. If you are pregnant, even this small amount of radiation could harm a developing fetus. However, such complications are rare.

Talk with your doctor about any concerns or questions you have about the IVP before your test.

After the IVP is over, the time it takes for the pictures to be available varies depending on the lab. When they are all ready, a radiologist will review them. Your doctor will be sent a report. Generally, it takes a day or two to get your results. They’ll go over your results with you and talk about any further testing or treatment you may need to do.