A cystourethrogram produces specialised X-ray images of the bladder and urinary tract to help assess the structure and function of the lower urinary tract. Sometimes X-ray pictures are also taken while you urinate (pass urine). This is done to see whether urine flows away correctly from the bladder. This is called a voiding or micturating cystourethrogram.
Note: the information below is a general guide only. The arrangements, and the way tests are performed, may vary between different hospitals. Always follow the instructions given by your doctor.

What is a cystourethrogram used for?

A cystourethrogram may be done to help:

  • Find the cause of repeated urinary tract infections.
  • Look for injuries to the bladder or urethra.
  • Find the cause of urinary incontinence.
  • Check for structural problems of the bladder and urethra.
  • Look for enlargement (hypertrophy) of the prostate or narrowing (stricture) of the urethra in men.
  • Find out if urinary reflux is present.
  • A cystourethrogram is commonly used in children who have repeated urinary tract infections or other urinary problemscalledvesicoureteric reflux (VU reflux). In mild cases urine backs up into the lower ureter. In severe cases it can back up into a swollen kidney. Usually, children with this condition are born with it. Other causes include:
  • Blockage to the bladder.
  • Abnormal urination with very high pressure within the bladder.
  • Incomplete emptying of the bladder.
  • Urinary tract infections.

How does a cystourethrogram work?

In a cystourethrogram a contrast agent is inserted into the bladder. Dye makes the structures being examined bright white in colour. This helps to show the important areas by making them stand out against the black background on the X-ray picture.These images are fed to a monitor. This allows your doctor to watch as the contrast agent fills your bladder and to observe any problems or defects.

 What happens during a cystourethrogram?

You will be asked to lie on the X-ray table. Your genital area will be cleaned and draped with sterile towels. A thin hollow tube called a catheter will be inserted into your urethra (the opening through which you urinate). This might be a little uncomfortable but should not be painful. The catheter will gently be advanced into your bladder.A small amount of the contrast dye will then be put into the bladder via the catheter. You may be asked to change positions during the test to get different views of and finally, the doctor will take some pictures as you empty your bladder by urinating.You may feel a strong urge to urinate at other times during the test. This is normal, but it is important to try to wait until you are asked to do so.

What should I do to prepare for a cystourethrogram?

Your hospital should give you information on how to prepare for this test. There is usually very little preparation needed. Pregnant women should not have the test.  You should also advise the hospital if you are breast-feeding.

What can I expect after a cystourethrogram?

You may feel a burning sensation when you urinate and/or need to go to the toilet more often than usual for a short time. It is normal for your urine to have a pinkish tinge for a couple of days after the test.

Are there any side effects or complications from a cystourethrogram?

Most people have a cystourethrogram without any complications. Rarely, a person may have an allergic reaction to the contrast dye used. It is also possible, although uncommon, that damage to the bladder or urinary tract could be caused during injection of the contrast. The most common complication is a urinary tract infection.

You should contact your doctor if you have any of the following problems:

  • Blood in your urine after two days.
  • Pain in your lower abdomen
  • Pain or burning upon urination.
  • An urge to urinate frequently, but usually passing only small amounts of urine.
  • Dribbling or leaking of urine.
  • Urine that is reddish or pinkish, foul-smelling, or cloudy.
  • Pain in the back just below the rib cage on one side of the body (flank pain).
  • Fever or chills.
  • Nausea or vomiting.

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