Intravenous Pyelogram

Posted October 2, 2022 by Anusha ‐ 3 min read

An intravenous pyelogram (IVP) is a type of X-ray that looks at your kidneys and bladder and the ducts (ureters) that connect them. Doctors don’t use it very often. Other imaging tests, like CT scans, are more common.

Uses of Intravenous Pyelogram

Your doctor may recommend this exam if you have blood in your urine or pain in your side or lower back.

This test lets your doctor see the size and shape of your bladder, kidneys, and ureters, and how well they’re working. They can spot blockages in your urinary tract caused by:

  • Kidney stones

  • Enlarged prostate

  • Tumors in the kidney, ureters, or bladder

  • Kidney cysts

  • Scarring, either from surgery or a urinary tract infection

  • Congenital problems in the urinary tract, such as medullary sponge kidney.

Preparation for Intravenous Pyelogram

Before you have the test, let your doctor know if you’re pregnant or have any medical conditions, if you have allergies, and if you’re taking any prescription or over-the-counter medicines.

If you take any of these, you might need to stop before your procedure:

  • Aspirin

  • Blood thinners

  • Metformin, a diabetes medicine

  • The doctor may ask you to take mild laxative the night before the IVP and tell you not to eat or drink after midnight.

You also may need a blood test to see how your kidneys will react to the contrast dye.

Procedure of Intravenous Pyelogram

  • You’ll probably change into a hospital gown.

  • A lab technician will inject a liquid called a contrast material into your hand or arm through an IV.

  • The dye travels through your bloodstream to your kidneys and urinary tract.

  • You’ll lie still on a table as the tech takes the X-rays.

  • You may be asked to turn from side to side and hold different positions.

  • The IVP shows the urinary tract in action as your kidney begins to empty into the ureters. These are the tubes that carry urine to the bladder.

  • The iodine will show up as bright white on the film. Dye that doesn’t move or moves too slowly shows where the blockages are.

  • The images also may show that your kidney, bladder, or ureter isn’t working as well as it should.

  • Near the end of the exam, you’ll be asked to pee.

  • This lets your radiologist get a picture of your bladder after it empties.

  • An IVP usually takes less than 1 hour.

  • If your kidneys work more slowly, the test can last up to 4 hours.

  • You should be able to go back to your normal diet and activities afterward.

  • The doctor may tell you to drink more fluids than normal to flush the contrast dye from your body.

Results of Intravenous Pyelogram

A radiologist will analyze the images and send a report to your doctor, who’ll share the results with you. Abnormal results could mean you have:

  • Kidney stones

  • Enlarged prostate

  • Tumor or cyst in your urinary tract

  • Structural problems with your kidneys, bladder, or ureters

  • Scarring or other damage in your urinary tract

Risks of Intravenous Pyelogram

Most of the time, an intravenous pyelogram is safe with no complications. But there are side effects and some risks.

Side effects

  • You’ll feel a sting as the technician injects the contrast material into your hand or arm.

  • You may feel itchy or become flushed as the contrast material moves through your body.

  • You might have a salty or metallic taste in your mouth.

  • You could have a brief headache.

  • You may feel nauseated.

  • These side effects are common and normally go away within a couple of minutes.

Allergic reactions

In rare cases, you may have an allergic reaction to the contrast material, or dye. That will cause:

  • Itching that lasts longer than a few minutes

  • Hives

  • These symptoms can be treated with medication.

Serious reaction

It’s less common, but possible, to have a serious allergic reaction. That can cause:

  • Shortness of breath

  • Swelling in your throat or elsewhere

  • Low blood pressure

  • Cardiac arrest

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