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For Parents: The VCUG Test

Information for parents about a VCUG

A voiding cystourethrogram (VCUG) is a test to show how the urinary tract is working. The test is done in the fluoroscopy exam room at Children's Hospital Colorado using X-rays to get pictures of the inside of your child’s urinary tract. The urinary tract includes:

  • Kidneys: cleanse the blood and make urine 
  • Ureters: tubes that connect the kidneys and the bladder to drain urine
  • Bladder: holds urine and looks like a balloon
  • Urethra: tube from the bladder to the opening where the urine comes out

Normally, the kidneys release urine into the bladder. A VCUG is done to tell if your child has reverse flow of urine (from the bladder to the kidneys). It is important to know if this is happening because reverse flow can damage the kidneys.

Preparing for the VCUG test

Please arrive at Children’s Colorado 30 minutes prior to your scheduled exam time. This will give you time to check into admissions and get your child’s patient I.D. bracelet. Staff will be checking this bracelet throughout the day, to make sure the right procedure is being done for your child.

Once you have checked into admissions, you will then go to the radiology check-in desk. We will ask you to fill our paperwork so please bring a list of your child’s medicines and your insurance card.

How to help your child before the test

A VCUG, can be hard for children because the tube is put into the urethra, which is a very sensitive area of the body. Because of this, your child may feel uncomfortable or embarrassed.

There are many things you can do to help your child know what to expect and be more comfortable. Children’s Colorado suggests: 

  • Reassure your child that you will be there the whole time during the test.
  • Let them know the test is only done in a hospital setting by hospital staff, including a doctor and imaging technologists.
  • Bring a comfort item from home such as a blanket, favorite stuffed animal, action figure, etc. 
  • Siblings are NOT allowed in the exam room. Please arrange for someone to watch brothers and sisters. 
  • Talk about the test with your child at home so he knows what to expect. Link to tips on preparing your child for the contrast enema test 

A Children’s Colorado child life specialist will meet with you and your child (3 years and older) before the exam. While you are in the radiology wait area, we will talk about the test and answer any questions or concerns you may have. The child life specialist will also be there to support your child during the test.

On the day of the test, please dress your child in comfortable clothes that are easy to remove. Your child will be asked to change into a hospital gown when entering the fluoroscopy exam room for the test. All clothes, including underwear, shoes and socks need to be removed. Please have your child pee so their bladder will be empty for the contrast. 

If you can be calm and reassuring, it will help your child to be relaxed and cooperative.
You will be able to stay with your child during the test. You will be asked to wear a lead apron when the pictures are being taken. 

**Note: if the mother is pregnant she will not be able to stay in the room--we do not want to expose the baby to radiation. Please bring another person to help support your child.

What to expect during the VCUG test at Children’s Colorado

Before the catheter is put in, the technologist will clean your child’s private area with a swab that has a brown soapy liquid on it. It is important that your child keep his/her hands above their belly button once the area has been cleaned.

Your child may feel uncomfortable when the catheter is put in. Children’s Colorado has put together some helpful tips to help your child relax during this procedure (will add link to child’s page content that has these tips listed). Try practicing some of these tips with your child at home to use for the test.

  • Once the catheter has been secured, the contrast will be put in. We have movies, games, and iPads for your child to use during the test. When your child feels like they need to use the bathroom, the doctor will need to take additional X-ray pictures.
  • A potty will be placed for your child to use, to pee the contrast out. The catheter will flow out with the contrast. The doctor will take one more picture during this time.

After the VCUG test

After the test, your child is all done and can put their own clothes back on.

Some children feel tingling or burning the first few times they use the bathroom after the test. This is normal and will go away soon. Make sure your child drinks extra fluids. This will help flush out any contrast left over and help decrease any discomfort. If your child still complains of pain, a warm bath will help.

The radiologist will review the VCUG and the results will be sent to the doctor who ordered the test in a couple of days. Your child’s doctor will follow-up with additional information and to talk about treatment options.

Read kid-friendly information about the VCUG with your child.