Thumbnail image of: Kidney: Illustration
Thumbnail image of: Urinary System: Illustration

Urinary Tract X-Ray (Intravenous Pyelogram, or IVP)

What is an IVP?

An intravenous pyelogram, or IVP, is a test that uses dye and X-rays to take pictures of the urinary tract. The urinary tract includes your:

  • Kidneys, which make urine
  • Ureters, which are the tubes that carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder
  • Bladder, which stores urine
  • Urethra, which is the tube that drains urine from the bladder

In most cases an IVP is a very safe way to look at the urinary tract.

When is it used?

An IVP can help find the cause of problems such as blood in the urine or pain in your back or belly. An IVP allows your healthcare provider to see the location and size of your kidneys. It can give your provider an idea of how well they are working. The IVP can be used to look for:

  • Kidney or bladder stones
  • An enlarged prostate
  • Tumors or cancer
  • Other things that block the flow of urine

How do I prepare for this procedure?

  • You may or may not need to take your regular medicines the day of the procedure. Some medicines (like aspirin) may increase your risk of bleeding during or after the procedure. Tell your healthcare provider about all medicines and supplements that you take. Ask your provider if you need to avoid taking any medicine or supplements before the procedure.
  • Tell your provider if you have had kidney problems or an allergy to chemicals, such as contrast dye.
  • Women should tell their provider if they are pregnant.
  • Your provider may ask you to take an enema or medicine to clean out your bowels before the procedure.
  • Follow any other instructions your healthcare provider gives you.
  • Ask any questions you have before the procedure. You should understand what your healthcare provider is going to do. You have the right to make decisions about your healthcare and to give permission for any tests or procedures.

What happens during the procedure?

An IVP may be done in the X-ray department of a large clinic or hospital or in an outpatient center. You will need to wear a hospital gown so that items from your clothing, such as zippers, do not interfere with the X-ray picture.

First a plain X-ray is taken of your belly. Then a special dye called contrast medium is injected into a vein in your arm. After the dye is injected, a series of X-rays are taken. The dye moves through your kidneys to your urinary tract and into your urine. It makes the kidneys and other parts of the urinary tract show up on the X-rays. Your provider can see how the dye flows through your kidneys.

As the dye leaves the kidneys it enters the ureters. Dye flowing through the ureters and bladder helps your provider see possible stones or other blockages of the normal flow of urine.

The procedure usually takes about an hour, but it may take longer, depending on how fast your kidneys empty.

What happens after the procedure?

When the test is done, you may be able to go home, depending on your provider’s instructions.

The dye used for the IVP will not discolor your urine. It will not cause any discomfort when you urinate. If you have pain or other discomfort after the IVP, tell your healthcare provider right away. The symptoms could be caused by a problem, such as an infection.

Ask your healthcare provider:

  • How and when you will hear your test results
  • What symptoms or problems you should watch for and what to do if you have them

Make sure you know when you should come back for a checkup.

What are the risks of this procedure?

Every procedure or treatment has risks. Some possible risks of an X-ray exam include:

  • In rare cases you may have an allergic reaction to dyes used during the exam.
  • If you are pregnant, there is a risk the X-rays will hurt the baby.
  • The radiation you get from an X-ray may cause a small increase in your lifetime risk of developing cancer. Modern equipment produces high-quality images using the lowest possible amount of radiation.

Ask your healthcare provider how these risks apply to you. Be sure to discuss any other questions or concerns that you may have.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2014-04-18
Last reviewed: 2014-04-08
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.

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