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Preparing Your Child for a VCUG

On this page, you will find information to share with your child about getting a VCUG, written in terms Child Life Specialists believe children can easily understand.

What is a VCUG?

  • VCUG stands for Voiding Cysto-Urethrogram.
  • This test evaluates your child's bladder size, shape and capacity as well as the urethra. A VCUG can be used to determine if your child has ureteral reflux: a condition where urine from the bladder goes upward back to the kidneys.
  • A VCUG uses X-ray pictures to look for reflux.

Why it's important to have a VCUG

  • "Your bladder is the place where the pee stays until you use the bathroom. Sometimes the pee doesn't always go the right way and goes back up to the kidneys."
  • This test will tell the doctors whether or not this is happening.

Your job during the VCUG

  • Relax
  • Listen to what the radiology technologists say about which way to turn
  • Use your words to say when you feel like you need to use the bathroom

What happens when you have a VCUG?

  • You will change into a hospital gown and lay down on the x-ray bed (some people say it looks like a table).
  • Girls will need to place their legs in the "frog position" or "butterfly position." Do this by placing your feet together near your bottom and letting your knees point out at the side.
  • The nurse will clean the private area (whatever terms you use) with some brown soap and water. This might feel cold and wet.
  • Next, the nurse will slide a tiny tube called a catheter inside your body, where the pee comes out. This may feel uncomfortable. To help the tube go in easier, the technologist will put some slippery gel on the tube.
  • A bag of special medicine or contrast will be attached to the tube.
  • The liquid will go from the bag through the tube and right into your bladder.
  • The technologist will ask you to turn to the side to get different pictures of your bladder.
  • You will feel like you really have to pee and cannot hold it any longer. You can tell the tech when you have this feeling. 
  • After your pictures are finished, the technologist will ask you to pee while lying on the x-ray bed. Your pee and the tiny tube will come out.
  • Keep in mind; this may be hard to do for older children and adolescents, as well as toddlers just finishing potty training. You can help by running some water and encouraging your child. Allow for as much privacy as possible for older children.
  • While the special medicine or contrast is coming out, more pictures will be taken to see how the pee moves.
  • Towels will be placed on the table so you don't get very wet.
  • Once you are all done, you can get cleaned up and put your clothes back on.

Things that can help when having a VCUG

  • Taking deep breaths, gentle blowing or talking
  • Looking at a book, movie or bubbles
  • Counting, singing, spelling or playing a cognitive game
  • Watching or looking away
  • Discussing what will be helpful to you and your child