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For Kids: The VCUG Test

A kid-friendly overview of a voiding cystourethrogram 

A voiding cystourethrogram (also called a VCUG) test is scheduled when your doctor wants to know how your bladder is working. The test is done in the Radiology Department at Children's Colorado Hospital and uses a big camera to take pictures, called X-rays, of the inside of your body.

The X-rays show your doctor how your bladder is working and tell us information about the tubes that connect your bladder to your kidneys. These tubes are called ureters.

Physicians work at an imaging table in the fluroscopy room at Children's Hospital Colorado.
The VCUG test takes place in the Fluoroscopy room.

Preparing for the VCUG test at Children's Colorado

We thought you should know what happens when you have a VCUG test at Children’s Colorado. We will let you know if something is going to be a little different when you come in for your VCUG.

Please read this information with your parents and let us know if you have any questions when you come to the hospital. We will answer them before you have the test.
Don’t worry…your parents will be able to stay with you during the whole test (unless your mom is pregnant). Bring your favorite toy, video game, or blanket to help you during the test.

Before your VCUG, a Child Life Specialist will meet with you and tell you everything you need to know about the test. She will answer all your questions.

A Children’s Colorado technologist (someone that takes the X-ray pictures) will bring you and your parents to a room with a big machine. This machine is a large camera that takes X-ray pictures. The room also has a table (bed) you will lay on during the test. The big camera is connected to a TV screen so the doctor can see the pictures as they are being taken. Let the doctor know if you would like to see your pictures on the TV screen too!

Before the test, you and your parents will go into the bathroom, where you will change into a hospital gown. Make sure to take off your pants, shirt, underwear and shoes before putting on the gown. This is also a good time to use the bathroom before the test. We need you to empty all the pee out of your bladder.

Next to the table you’ll see a tall pole with a bottle of clear liquid hanging at the top. The clear liquid is called contrast. This is a liquid that helps the doctor see the pictures clearly. We will explain more about the liquid when you get here. There will also be many people in the room with you: your parents, a doctor, a technologist, and a child life specialist. We are all here to help!

You will be asked lie on the bed on your back. Please let us know if you want a blanket!

What happens during the VCUG test at Children’s Colorado?

It is now time to take some pictures. Once you are on the table comfortably, the technologist will ask you to lift your bottom, so she can put a cloth under your bottom. We call this the “bun lift.”

Before the technologist can put the catheter in, girls will need to put their legs in a frog leg position (with your feet together, close to your bottom and knees out to the side). Boys will lie with legs straight out.

You may feel uncomfortable when the catheter is put in, but the technologist will apply some very slippery gel on the tube, which will help ease the pain. The Child Life Specialist will let you know when to take a nice big breath to help you relax. Once the catheter is put in, the technologist will tape it to your leg so it doesn’t slip out.

A girl wearing a pink hospital gown sits in a hospital bed under a light blue blanket with pink flowers and blows on a pinwheel held by a woman with long brown hair and hot pink shirt.
Blowing on a pinwheel can help patients relax during their VCUG exam.

It will help a lot if you can try to relax your muscles as much as possible. Children’s Colorado has some ideas that might help you:

  1. Blowing bubbles: Slowly take a deep breathe in, then very slowly pretend you are blowing a really big bubble. Go slowly…you don’t want to pop the bubble! You may need to pretend to blow more than one bubble while the nurse puts in the catheter.
  2. Blowing on a pinwheel: Use slow breaths to make the pinwheel spin.
  3. Singing: Sing some of your favorite songs…don’t leave out any of words!

Practice these things before you come in for your test, maybe while you are lying flat or in the frog leg position. See which one makes you feel more relaxed.

Let us know your ideas for relaxing. We’re here to help and know this may be a little scary. Be sure to tell us how you are feeling--we will do everything we can to make this easy for you.

It’s also important for you to hold still when the technologist puts the catheter in, and when the pictures are being taken. The technologist will let you when you need to lay still. If you need some help just anyone in the room—we’re all here to help you!

Remember, relax and hold still!

  • Once the catheter is in place, we will put the contrast in.
  • The contrast will go from the hanging bottle through a tube, into your bladder.
  • While this is happening, you can play a game on an iPad, or watch a cartoon. A Children’s Colorado Child Life Specialist will help you decide what you would like to do.
  • When you feel like you really have to go to the bathroom, tell the doctor.
  • We need you to hold it for a couple more seconds so the doctor can take some pictures.
  • After the pictures, the technologist will put a special potty for girls under your bottom for you to use. Boys turn to their side and let the pee out in a urinal. Sometimes it feels a little funny peeing out the contrast.
  • When you’re peeing the catheter will come out, which is OK because you don’t need it anymore. After you’re finished peeing, we need just a few more pictures before you’re done!

After the VCUG test at Children’s Colorado

The test is now complete - you can clean yourself off if any contrast accidentally spilled on you. Now you can get dressed and go home or back to school. Great job today--YOU DID IT!

Some kids feel tingling or burning when they go potty after the test. This is normal and will go away. Make sure to drink lots of fluids so the contrast can get out of your body. If you have any pain, a warm bath can really help you feel better.