A voiding cystourethrogram (VCUG) is a video X-ray of the bladder to see how it is functioning. The most common reasons for a VCUG are a urinary tract infection (UTI), a suspected urinary obstruction or bladder trauma. Our specialists will place a catheter in your child’s urethra (where urine comes out of the body) and fill the bladder with a clear fluid called contrast. This will make your child’s bladder visible during the exam.

What to Expect

We perform the VCUG in a private radiology exam room and it takes about 30-45 minutes. Your presence and participation have a great impact on the success of the exam and we encourage you to be there to support your child. Throughout the exam we encourage you to help your child stay calm and relaxed by holding his or her hand and talking. This is particularly important when we insert the catheter.

The exam does involve the use of radiation, so women who are pregnant or believe they might be are not allowed in the exam room. If this is the case with you, we strongly encourage you to invite another trusted caregiver to help support your child during the exam. Siblings and anyone under the age of 18 are not allowed in the exam room. Two parents or caregivers are able to stay with your child during the exam.

In most cases, a Certified Child Life Specialist (CCLS) will help prepare your child before beginning the exam and then provide distraction during the exam to help reduce your child’s fear and anxiety. The CCLS will encourage your involvement and talk to your child in age-appropriate language.

If your child has had a recent UTI and is taking antibiotics, the antibiotics have to run through a course of seven days to avoid the risk of further infection by the exam. If you suspect your child has a UTI before the exam please contact your child’s doctor.

Description of the Procedure

For Boys

  • Once your child is on the table, he will be asked to relax his legs out in front of him. The technologist will then take Betadine (liquid soap) and a cotton swab to clean the tip of his penis where his urine comes out. This may feel cold and wet.
  • The technologist will then slide a tiny, flexible, soft tube called a catheter into his urethra (which carries urine from his bladder). This is sometimes an uncomfortable feeling so he may need support and comfort. He can reduce the discomfort by taking slow deep breaths and staying calm and still. In many cases, numbing gel can be administered into his penis to prevent discomfort during the catheter placement. Your child must remain still and relaxed for the medication to numb properly.
  • The catheter is connected to a liquid that flows through the tube into your child's bladder. This liquid is called contrast and it is visible in X-ray pictures.
  • The X-ray machine will move over your child to take pictures. The machine will not touch him.
  • X-ray pictures will be taken to view the liquid in his bladder. When he feels like he can no longer hold his urine, he will be asked to urinate on the table into towels. Just before urinating, the technologist will remove the small piece of tape used to hold the catheter in place during the exam. This allows the catheter to simply fall out while your child urinates.
  • The technologist will continue to encourage your child to push out all of the liquid while they continue taking X-ray pictures. This might sound uncomfortable or embarrassing but it is a very important part of the exam.

For Girls

  • Once your child is on the table, she will be asked to place her legs in the "frog position," putting her feet together and bending her knees outward. The technologist will then take Betadine (liquid soap) and a cotton swab to clean the area between her legs three times. This may feel cold and wet.
  • The technologist will then slide a tiny, flexible, soft tube called a catheter into the opening of her urethra (which carries urine from her bladder). This is sometimes an uncomfortable feeling so she may need support and comfort. She can reduce this discomfort by taking slow deep breaths and staying calm and still.
  • The catheter is connected to a liquid that flows through the tube into your child's bladder. This liquid is called contrast and it is visible in X-ray pictures.
  • The X-ray machine will move over your child to take pictures. The machine will not touch her.
  • X-ray pictures will be taken to view the liquid in her bladder. When she feels like she can no longer hold her urine, she will be asked to urinate on the table into towels. Just before urinating, the technologist will remove the small piece of tape used to hold the catheter in place during the exam. This will allow the catheter to simply fall out while your child urinates.
  • The technologist will continue to encourage your child to push out all of the liquid while they continue taking X-ray pictures. This might sound uncomfortable or embarrassing but it is a very important part of the exam.