Childr Health Information

Voiding Cystourethrogram (VCUG)

Print this page Bookmark and Share

Topic: Tests & Procedures

This handout was written to answer some of the questions most often asked about having a voiding cystourethrogram (VCUG). Feel free to ask the x-ray technologist or nurse to go over any information you do not understand.

VCUG stands for voiding cystourethrogram. It is a test that uses x-rays and contrast liquid to study the bladder during voiding (urinating).

The body uses the nutrients from the food that we eat and the kidneys filter out the waste. The waste fluids flow from the kidneys, through the ureters and into the bladder until it leaves the body through the urethra during urination. Some children have a condition called vesicoureteral reflux, or simply reflux. Reflux causes urinary problems, especially urinary tract infections (UTIs), because reflux allows bacteria and germs to reach the kidneys. Not all children with UTIs have reflux. However, it is important to know if your child has reflux because it could determine optional treatment. A VCUG allows the radiologist to see if fluids are moving in the right direction. By determining this, more can be learned of your child’s urinary problems and if your child may have problems in the future.

During a VCUG, the radiologist uses x-rays to look at the bladder. To examine the flow in the urinary system the technologist uses a liquid called contrast that shows up clearly on the x-rays. When your child comes in for a VCUG:
- He or she will change into a hospital gown and then will be asked to lie down on the x-ray table.
- During the entire procedure everyone who is not having the test in the room must wear a protective lead apron.
- The technologist will clean the opening of the urethra using cotton balls and soap. The technologist will insert a small flexible tube called a catheter into the bladder. It is inserted through the penis in boys and through the urethra in girls. Tape is used to prevent the catheter from slipping out of the body.
- The catheter is connected to a bottle of contrast liquid. The contrast liquid flows into the bladder through the catheter while the technologist takes x-rays throughout the study. The contrast liquid allows the technologist to see the bladder clearly and will not harm your child. Your child will start to feel a strong urge to urinate. The technologist will ask your child to hold it until the bladder is full. - When the bladder is full, the tape is removed and your child may release the liquid by urinating or voiding. Smaller children void automatically; older children may have to try harder. As your child voids, the technologist will continue taking pictures until the bladder is empty.
- The entire process will take approximately 30 minutes.

Your child will not feel the x-ray camera taking pictures. Your child will feel the cold, wet soap as the technologist wipes the area for the catheterization. As the catheter is inserted, your child may feel some discomfort and pressure. This may also make your child feel the need to urinate. Some children say this part of the test hurts a little, but many say it is simply uncomfortable. Once the catheter is in place your child probably won’t feel it is there. As the bladder is being filled, your child will feel a growing need to urinate. Your child will feel the tape coming off and she or he may feel the catheter as it comes out during voiding.

When and how to prepare your child for a VCUG depends on his or her age. For infants, no preparation is necessary, as long as you understand the procedure. Toddlers require very simple preparation and explanation just before the procedure begins. Older children require more detailed information in advance. Adolescents should be prepared far enough in advance to give them time to ask questions. It is important to tell your child what to expect, including the different sensations he or she may feel. Most children will be concerned about what they will feel throughout the VCUG. Many ask if it will hurt. It is always important to be honest with your child. Share with your child that there will be no needles. Resist saying it won’t hurt. You can say “ Your test might feel uncomfortable for a short time but I will help you get through it”. When you arrive for your appointment a staff member will discuss the procedure in an age-appropriate way with your child. They will address any concerns that you or your child may have and if necessary help him or her come up with some ways to get through the procedure. At Dayton Children’s we take these extra steps because our goal is to decrease your child’s anxiety and make this experience as comfortable as possible.

Many times the mere presence of a parent or caregiver is enough to soothe a child. Some children need extra help getting through the VCUG. If your child has a special toy or blanket that provides a sense of security for them, please bring the item with you. Your child can hold it during the procedure. Taking deep breaths with your child can help relax the body and relieve anxiety. The child life specialist, along with the radiology team has many “distraction” tools to use as an alternative focus. These include blowing bubbles, playing with toys, reading a picture book or simply keeping the child distracted by talking. While many children benefit from being distracted,  other children prefer to watch the x-ray screen. Some children need to cry throughout the procedure. Crying is a healthy way of coping because it allows them to express their emotions. Children react to stressful situations in different ways. The technologist, child life specialist and radiologist are all dedicated to making this experience as comfortable as possible for both you and your child.

The results from the VCUG will be sent to your physician. You will receive additional information and how to care for your child after the procedure. If you have any questions, please call 937-641-3888.

This handout is for general information only. It should not be considered complete. For further information about VCUG, please ask your doctor or nurse practitioner.


Derechos de autor(c) de The Children's Medical Center, ano 1999. Este material unicamente tiene fines educativos. No puede ser reproducido, distribuido ni modificado sin previa autorizacion de The Children's Medical Center of Dayton, One Children's Plaza, Dayton, Ohio, 45404-1815. Llame al 937-641-3666 para solicitar autorizacion o para obtener un juego maestro para copias. Para obtener mas informacion puede visitar (consulte la seccion de informacion legal).

La informacion contenida en este material es unicamente informacion de tipo general. No debe considerarse como completa. Para obtener mas informacion acerca de los complementos para leche materna, por favor pidala a su doctor.
Corregido: 1993, 1996, 1998, 2000, 2005

The information contained in this handout is for general information only and should not be considered complete. For specific information about bathing your baby, please ask your doctor or nurse practitioner.

Additional information may be located in the Family Resource Center, 2nd floor, near the Outpatient Surgery Center. Hours of the center vary; please contact the Family Resource Center at 937-641-3700.

Copyright(c) The Children's Medical Center of Dayton. This material is for educational purposes only. It cannot be reproduced or distributed without permission from Dayton Children's.
Revised: 1993, 1996, 1998, 2000, 2005


Sign up for Pediatric Link

Finding the latest trusted child health and safety information doesn't have to be hard. Pediatric Link, Dayton Children's e-newsletter offers timely and up-to-date information for health care professionals from the experts you trust at Dayton Children's.  Sign up

Upcoming Events

Fun family health fair

REGISTRATION: Sign up online at By mail: Fill out this entry form and mail with a check payable to Miamisburg High School to Miamisburg High School C/O Jenny Brockert 1860 Belvo Road Miamisburg, OH 45342 For more information all Jenny Brockert at (937) 866-0771 ext.1414 or email her at

Dayton Children’s cordially invites you to attend our upcoming state-wide pediatric trauma symposium. The symposium will be held at the Wyndham Hotel, Miamisburg, OH on April 25, 2014.

View full event calendarView full event calendar

The Right Experts

Just right for all kids


The Children's Medical Center of Dayton Dayton Children's
The Right Care for the Right Reasons

One Children's Plaza - Dayton, Ohio - 45404-1815