What Is an Intravenous Pyelogram?

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

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 blockages in your urinary tract caused by:

IVP images can give your doctor enough detailed information to treat a blockage with medication. Otherwise, you may need surgery.

How Is the Procedure Done?

You may be asked to 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 very 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 the 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 the kidney, bladder, or ureter is not 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 function more slowly, the test can last up to 4 hours. You should be able to go back to your normal diet and activities afterward. Your doctor may tell you to drink more fluids than normal to flush the contrast dye from your body.


Who Shouldn’t Get an IVP?

Don’t get the procedure if you’re allergic to iodine or contrast dye.

If you’re pregnant or may be pregnant, your doctor will most likely choose not to do the test since X-rays use a small burst of radiation.

Infants and children rarely undergo IVPs.

What Should I Do Before the Test?

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

You may be asked to take mild laxative the night before the IVP and told 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.

What Are the Risks?

You’ll feel a sting as the contrast material is injected into your hand or arm. You may feel have itching sensation and become flushed as the contrast material moves through your body. You might also have a salty or metallic taste in your mouth, a brief headache or feel nauseous. These side effects are common and normally go away within a couple of minutes.

If you have kidney disease, there’s a chance the radiation could cause further kidney damage.

In rare cases, you may experience an allergic reaction. Your itching may last or you may get hives. These can be treated with medication.

Signs of a serious allergic reaction include becoming short of breath or feeling a swelling in your throat or elsewhere. Tell your radiologist right away if you experience these symptoms.

What About My Results?

A radiologist will analyze the images and send a report to your doctor, who’ll share the results with you. Other exams may be necessary. You might also need a follow-up to see if your treatment is working.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Minesh Khatri, MD on January 5, 2017



Radiological Society of North America: “Intravenous Pyelogram.”

Johns Hopkins Medical Health Library: “What is an intravenous pyelogram?”

Urology Care Foundation: “What is an Intravenous Pyelogram?”

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