A cystourethrogram is an
X-ray test that takes pictures of your
bladder and urethra while your bladder is full and while you are
urinating. A thin flexible tube (urinary catheter) is
inserted through your urethra into your bladder. A liquid material that shows
up well on an X-ray picture (contrast material) is injected into
your bladder through the catheter, then X-rays are taken with the contrast
material in your bladder. More X-rays may be taken while urine flows out of
your bladder, in which case the test is called a voiding cystourethrogram
If X-rays are taken while contrast material is being
injected into the urethra, the test is called a retrograde cystourethrogram
because the contrast material flows into the bladder opposite the usual
direction of urine flow.
You have symptoms of a urinary tract infection, such as pain or burning when you urinate.
allergic to the iodine dye used in the contrast
material or any other substance that contains iodine. Also tell your doctor if
you are allergic to any medicines or have ever
had a serious allergic reaction (anaphylaxis),
such as after being stung by a bee or from eating shellfish.
Within the past 4 days, you have had an X-ray test using barium
contrast material, such as a
barium enema, or have taken a medicine (such as
Pepto-Bismol) that contains bismuth. Barium and bismuth can interfere with test
You have an
intrauterine device (IUD) in place.
This test is often done in children to see if they may have an abnormal backflow of urine (vesicoureteral reflux). Prepare your child for exams and tests that are needed by explaining them in a simple way. Use positive words as much as possible. Doing so will help your child understand what to expect and can help reduce fears.
You may be asked to sign a consent form that says you understand the risks of the test and agree to have it done.
Talk to your doctor about any concerns you have regarding the need
for the test, its risks, how it will be done, or what the results may mean. To
help you understand the importance of this test, fill out the
medical test information form(What is a PDF document?).
How It Is Done
A cystourethrogram is done by a
urologist or a
radiologist. The doctor may be assisted by an X-ray
technologist. You usually will not have to be admitted to the hospital.
You will need to take off all or most of your clothes, and you will be
given a cloth or paper covering to use during the test. You will be asked to
urinate just before the test begins.
You will be asked to lie on
your back on an X-ray table. Your genital area will be cleaned and draped with
sterile towels. Men may be given a lead shield that covers their genitals to
protect them from radiation. But women's
ovaries cannot be shielded without blocking the view
of the bladder.
A catheter will be placed through your urethra
and into your bladder. Contrast material will then slowly be injected through
the catheter until your bladder is full.
X-rays will be taken
when you are standing up and sitting and lying down. The catheter is removed
and more X-rays will be taken while you are urinating. You may be asked to stop
urinating, change positions, and begin urinating again. If you are unable to
urinate in one position, you may be asked to try it from another
This test usually takes 30 to 45 minutes.
How It Feels
You will feel no discomfort from the
X-rays. The X-ray table may feel hard and the room may be cool. You may find
that the positions you need to hold are uncomfortable or painful.
You will feel a strong urge to urinate at times during the test. You may
also find it somewhat uncomfortable when the catheter is inserted and left in
place. You will have a feeling of fullness in your bladder and an urge to
urinate when the contrast material is injected. You may be sore afterward. If
so, soaking in a warm tub bath may help.
You may feel embarrassed
at having to urinate in front of other people. This procedure is quite routine
for the X-ray staff. If you find yourself feeling embarrassed, take deep, slow
breaths and try to relax.
You may feel burning when you urinate.
A cystourethrogram does not usually cause
problems. Occasionally this test may lead to a urinary tract infection. If the
contrast material is injected with too much pressure, there is some chance of
damage to the bladder or urethra.
There is always a slight chance
of damage to cells or tissue from radiation, including the low levels of
radiation used for this test. But the chance of damage from the X-rays is
usually very low compared with the benefits of the test.
people may have an allergic reaction to the contrast material.
After the test
After the test, you may need to urinate frequently, with some burning during and after urination for a day or two. Drink lots of fluids to help minimize the burning and to prevent a urinary tract infection.
A pinkish tinge to the urine is common for several days after a cystourethrogram. But call your doctor immediately if:
Your urine remains red or you see blood clots after you have urinated several times.
You have not been able to urinate 8 hours after the test.
You have a fever, chills, or severe pain in your flank or abdomen. These may be signs of a kidney infection.
You have symptoms of a urinary tract infection (UTI). These symptoms include:
Pain or burning upon urination.
An urge to urinate frequently, but usually passing only small quantities of urine.
Dribbling or leakage of urine.
Urine that is reddish or pinkish, foul-smelling, or cloudy.
Pain or a feeling of heaviness in the lower abdomen.
A cystourethrogram is an
X-ray test that takes pictures of your
bladder and urethra while you are urinating. Some results may be
available immediately after the cystourethrogram. Final results are usually
available within 1 to 2 days.
The bladder appears normal.
Urine flows normally from the bladder.
The bladder empties
all the way.
The contrast material flows evenly out of the bladder
through a smooth-walled urethra.
Bladder stones, tumors, narrowing or pouches in the
wall (diverticula) of the urethra or bladder are seen in the bladder.
If the test was done because of possible injury to the bladder, a tear is
found in the bladder wall or urethra.
Reasons you may not be able to
have the test or why the results may not be helpful include:
Having barium (from a previous
barium enema test), gas, or stool in the bowel.
Being unable to urinate on command.
Pain caused by having the catheter in the urethra. This may
also cause problems with your urinary stream. You may have a muscle spasm or
not be able to fully relax the muscles that control your bladder.
A cystourethrogram is not usually done during pregnancy
because the X-rays could harm an unborn baby.
What To Think About
Other tests that use X-rays and
contrast material to look for problems in the kidney, bladder, and urethra
Retrograde urethrogram. This test is sometimes used to check for problems with a man's
urethra. A small quantity of contrast material is injected into the urethra
through a catheter. X-rays are then taken. This test can help find tears, scar
tissue, prostate narrowing, tumors, or malformations of the urethra.
Whitaker test. Also called a pressure/flow study, this test combines X-rays with
measurements of pressure and flow in the kidneys and ureters. It is used to
find the cause of blockage of the kidneys.
Intravenous pyelogram (IVP) IVP is commonly done
to diagnose certain diseases of the urinary tract (such as kidney stones,
tumors, or infection) and detect abnormalities of the urinary tract that were
present from birth (congenital). It can show the size, shape, and position of
the kidneys, the bladder, the ureters, and the urethra, and it can evaluate the
collecting system inside the kidneys. To learn more, see the topic
Intravenous Pyelogram (IVP).
Other Works Consulted
Chernecky CC, Berger BJ (2008). Laboratory Tests and Diagnostic Procedures, 5th ed. St. Louis:
Fischbach FT, Dunning MB III, eds. (2009).
Manual of Laboratory and Diagnostic Tests, 8th ed.
Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.
Pagana KD, Pagana TJ (2010). Mosby’s Manual of Diagnostic and Laboratory Tests, 4th ed. St. Louis: Mosby Elsevier.
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.