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A cystogram uses contrast dye to create pictures of the:

  • Bladder
  • Ureters—tubes that carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder
  • Urethra—the tube that carries urine from the bladder to outside of the body

The Urinary Tract

The Urinary Tract

Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Reasons for Procedure

A cystogram helps your doctor gain more information about the urinary system. For example, if you are having urine leakage, your doctor may be able to find the cause.

A cystogram can also be used to diagnose conditions like:

  • Vesicoureteral reflux —urine flows from the bladder back towards the kidneys
  • Bladder distention—enlargement of the bladder
  • Bladder irregularities, such as bladder cancer and incomplete voiding
Possible Complications

Problems from the test are rare. However, all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, like:

  • Urinary tract infection due to the catheter being inserted
  • Bleeding due to the catheter being inserted
  • Discomfort during urination, which may last several hours
  • Allergic reaction to the contrast dye

Talk to your doctor about these risks before the procedure.

What to Expect
Prior to Procedure

There are no special steps to take before a cystogram. However, it is important that you tell your doctor if you:

  • Are pregnant or breastfeeding
  • Have a cold or the flu , or have recently been around people who are sick
  • Are allergic to contrast dye
  • Take diabetes medication
Description of the Procedure

You will be asked to lie on a table. A catheter will be inserted into the urethra and positioned into the bladder. A contrast dye will travel through the catheter and into the bladder to fill it. When your bladder is full, x-rays will be taken of the ureters, bladder, and urethra. You will be asked to remain still while the images are taken. You may also need to move into different positions.

If your doctor needs to see how your urethra is functioning, you may be asked to urinate into a bedpan while x-rays are taken. Additional images may be needed after you have emptied your bladder.

When all the images have been taken, the catheter will be removed.

How Long Will It Take?

About 1 hour

Will It Hurt?

You may have some discomfort when:

  • The catheter is placed into the urethra
  • The contrast dye goes into the bladder
Post-procedure Care
At the Care Center

You will be able to go home after the test.

At Home

When you return home, take these steps:

  • Resume your normal activities.
  • Drink plenty of fluids. This will help flush the contrast dye from your bladder.

You may notice a small amount of blood in your urine and have some discomfort during urination. These are common side effects after a cystogram. They will go away within a few hours.

Your doctor should have the results in a few days. Be sure to follow-up with your doctor.

Call Your Doctor

Call your doctor if any of these occur:

  • Blood in the urine that lasts longer than expected
  • Discomfort during urination that lasts longer than expected
  • Pain
  • Fever
  • Inability to urinate

If you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.


National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse

Urology Care Foundation


Canadian Urological Association

Health Canada


Cystogram. Children’s Hospital of Chicago website. Available at: Accessed January 12, 2015.

Cystogram. PeaceHealth website. Available at: Accessed January 12, 2015.

Cystogram or voiding cystogram (VCUG). Conemaugh Health System website. Available at: Accessed January 12, 2015.

Radionuclide cystogram. American Urological Association website. Available at: Updated January 2011. Accessed January 12, 2015.

Schedule test: cystogram, voiding cystouretrhrogram or incontinence cystogram. PennMedicine website. Available at: Accessed January 12, 2015.

Your urinary system and how it works. National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NKUDIC) website. Available at: Updated January 22, 2014. Accessed January 12, 2015.

Last reviewed January 2015 by Adrienne Carmack, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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