What is a VCUG?
A VCUG (Voiding Cystourethrogram) is a test that looks at how well your child's kidneys, ureters and bladder are working. Your child's kidneys make urine. The urine flows from the kidneys through thin tubes (called ureters) into your child's bladder.
Some children have urinary reflux, a condition in which urine moves backwards from the bladder up towards the kidneys. Urinary reflux can cause problems, including urinary tract infections (UTIs). However, NOT ALL CHILDREN WITH UTIs HAVE URINARY REFLUX. A VCUG test checks for urinary reflux.
Prior to Your Child's VCUG Test
The prep book "Let's Get Ready for a VCUG Test" will help you talk with your child about the VCUG test. Before coming to UnityPoint Health - Methodist, explain to your child what will happen in words they can understand. Be honest with your child about their medical test, surgery, or procedure so that they have the opportunity to ask questions and you can address any misconceptions. For younger children, it is best to explain right before the test/procedure so that they are less anxious. For school-age children or teenagers, parents/caregivers can talk to their child several days before their visit to UnityPoint Health - Methodist. To help explain to your child about their test/procedure, utilize the topic specific prep book. Sometimes, it is difficult to know how to explain visits to the hospital to children. If you would like help please call a Child Life Specialist at 309-671-2145.
- Give your child their medications as usual. Write a list of all your child's current medications.
- Plan to bring comfort items such as blankets, toys, pacifiers, stuffed animals, bottles, etc.
Day of VCUG Test:
- Give your child their medications as usual. Bring a list of all your child's current medications.
- Provide comfort items such as blankets, toys, pacifiers, stuffed animals, bottles, etc.
- Please bring an extra diaper and wipes for your child, if needed.
- Your child may eat normal meals if the VCUG is the only test your child is having.
- We encourage a parent or caregiver to stay in the exam room during the test. Pregnant women are not allowed in the exam room because radiation can be harmful to the unborn child.
- Other children from your family will not be allowed in the exam room. Please make plans for your other children to stay with another caregiver during the test.
- If your child only has the VCUG scheduled, the test takes about one hour. Please plan accordingly.
- If your child is sick, running a fever or has a bladder/kidney infection, please call 309-672-5582 to reschedule the test.
What will the VCUG be like?
- A nurse will clean your child's private parts with special brown soap and water.
- After putting numbing gel on your child's private parts, the nurse will put a small soft tube (catheter) into your child's bladder. The nurse will then tape the tube to your child's skin so it will not move or come out during the test.
- A Radiologist (X-ray doctor) will direct an X-ray Technologist (Tech) to use the tube to put a special fluid (called contrast) into your child's bladder. This fluid is needed to help the doctor see your child's bladder, ureters, and kidneys.
- The Radiologist will use "live X-rays" (called fluoroscopy) to watch your child's bladder fill up with the special fluid. He will ask your child to turn from side to side to get pictures of the bladder and ureters. The Tech will gently help your child move as needed.
- When your child feels like she/he has to use the bathroom - and can't hold it any longer - the Tech will ask your child to "go potty" on the towels and pads on the table. The Radiologist will quickly take more X-ray pictures at this time to check for reflux. If your child has reflux, the doctor can see it best while your child is urinating.
Please note: Some doctors who order this test may ask that we fill your child's bladder a second time with the special fluid.
- After all X-ray pictures are taken and your child's bladder is empty, the Tech will remove the tube and the test will be finished.
After the VCUG:
The small tube may irritate the inside of your child's bladder, which can cause the urine to have a pink color. This should last for only one day, and drinking extra fluids can help. The Radiologist will send a report to your child's doctor. Your child's doctor will tell you the results of the VCUG.
What is Fluoroscopy?
A type of X-ray used to look at your child's bladder and ureters. Fluoroscopy uses a pulsed X-ray beam to take pictures that the Radiologist can see on a screen. (This screen looks like a T.V.) Pulsed fluoroscopy gives the lowest possible amount of radiation.
How much radiation is used in the VCUG test?
We are all exposed to small amounts of radiation every day. This is called background radiation, and it can come from rocks, soil, air, water and the sun. Because every patient is different in size and shape, the Technologist uses different settings on the X-ray machine for each person. This results in a unique amount of radiation (dose) for each patient and test. The radiation does not stay in your child's body after the test.
Radiation Source and Amount of Background Radiation
- 3 hour airline flight = the amount of background radiation a person gets in 1.5 days
- Chest X-ray = the amount of background radiation a person gets in 1.5 days
- VCUG test = the amount of background radiation a person gets in 9 days to 6 months
Is radiation harmful and should you allow your child to have the VCUG test?
Small amounts of radiation carry a low risk of being harmful. It is not known if small amounts of radiation increase the risk of cancer. Usually, the benefits of a VCUG are greater than the small risks from the radiation.
A VCUG may be the only way your child's doctor can learn the cause of your child's medical problem. This test may solve medical problems faster and with less pain than other tests. Your child's doctor will explain the risks and benefits of this test to you prior to scheduling the test. Rest assured, you will have the opportunity to have all of your questions answered before you decide to move forward with the test.
How does UnityPoint Health - Methodist lower the radiation to my child?
- Methodist uses fluoroscopic X-ray machines designed with smaller doses of radiation for children.
- Methodist is accredited by the American College of Radiology (ACR).
- All X-ray Technologists at Methodist are licensed and registered.
- The Radiologists are board-certified and specialize in pediatrics.
- Methodist uses the Image Gently educational and awareness campaign created by the Alliance for Radiation Safety in Pediatric Imaging.