Cystourethrogram - voiding

Alternative names
Voiding cystourethrogram


A voiding cystourethrogram is a type of X-ray taken to image the bladder and urethra during urination.

X-rays are a form of electromagnetic radiation like light, but of higher energy, so they can penetrate the body to form an image on film. Structures that are dense (such as bone) will appear white, air will be black, and other structures will be shades of gray

Usually the urinary bladder is not well seen on conventional X-rays. In this examination, a contrast medium is introduced into the bladder to improve visualization.

X-ray images are taken in various positions with the bladder full of contrast and while the bladder is being emptied.

How the test is performed

The test is performed in a hospital radiology department or in a health care provider’s office by an X-ray technician.

You will be asked to lie on your back on the X-ray table. A catheter (a thin flexible tube) will be gently inserted into the urethra and passed into the bladder. The contrast medium is injected through the catheter into the bladder and the catheter is clamped.

A number of X-ray pictures are then taken in various positions. The catheter is removed so that you can urinate (void). X-rays are taken of the bladder and urethra during voiding.

How to prepare for the test

You must sign a consent form. You will be given a gown to wear.

Remove all jewelry before the test. Inform the health care provider if you are:

  • Pregnant  
  • Allergic to X-ray contrast material  
  • Allergic to any medications

The physical and psychological preparation you can provide for this or any test or procedure depends on your child’s age, interests, previous experience, and level of trust. For specific information regarding how you can prepare your child, see the following topics as they correspond to your child’s age:

How the test will feel
You may feel some discomfort when the catheter is placed and while your bladder is full.

Why the test is performed

This test is performed to detect abnormalities of the bladder and the urethra. The test may also detect abnormal bladder emptying or any congenital abnormality. In males, it may detect urethral stricture and the extent of narrowing in the prostatic urethra.

Normal Values
The bladder and urethra will be normal in size and function.

What abnormal results mean

Abnormal results may indicate the following:

  • Urethral stricture (a narrowing of the urethra)  
  • Bladder or urethral diverticula (pouch-like sacs that develop and protrude from the walls of an organ)  
  • Ureterocele (the tube from the kidney to the bladder protrudes into the bladder)  
  • Prostatic enlargement  
  • Vesicoureteric reflux (urine is returning back into the bladder)  
  • Neurogenic bladder (bladder does not respond to feeling full)

Additional conditions under which the test may be performed:

  • Alcoholic neuropathy  
  • Autonomic neuropathy  
  • Chronic bilateral obstructive uropathy  
  • Complicated UTI (pyelonephritis)  
  • Irritable bladder  
  • Pyelonephritis; acute  
  • Reflux nephropathy

What the risks are

You may experience some discomfort when urinating after this test because of irritation from the catheter.

You may experience bladder spasms after this test, which may indicate an allergic reaction to the contrast medium. Contact your health care provider if bothersome bladder spasms occur.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 6, 2012
by Dave R. Roger, M.D.

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