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Cystography (Retrograde)

Cystography (also called retrograde cystography) is an exam of the bladder using X-rays. This test is done by a radiologist, a doctor who specializes in the use of X-ray imaging to diagnose and treat health conditions. During a cystography, the bladder is filled with a special contrast medium (X-ray dye) or radioactive medium (radionuclide). This medium ensures more detailed X-ray pictures.

Front view of urinary tract showing kidneys, ureters, and bladder. One kidney and ureter and bladder are in cross section.

Why Cystography Is Done

A cystography can help diagnose such bladder problems as:

  • Stones

  • Lesions or ruptures of the bladder wall

  • Urinary tract infection

  • Blood clots

  • Tumors

Preparing for the Procedure

  • Tell the radiologist if you have any allergies to contrast medium. Also mention if you have a current bladder infection or are pregnant.

  • If instructed, use a laxative or an enema to empty your bowel before the exam.

  • Empty your bladder before the exam.

  • Follow any other instructions you are given.

Potential Risks and Complications Include

  • Infection or bruising around the catheter insertion site

  • Problems due to contrast medium, including allergic reaction or kidney damage

  • Radiation exposure to reproductive organs

During the Procedure

  • You will change into a hospital gown and lie on an exam table. Your urethra will be numbed with an anesthetic jelly. You may also be given medication to help you relax.

  • A catheter (thin tube) will be inserted into the urethra up to the bladder. You will feel pressure. The dye or medium is slowly injected through the catheter into the bladder. As your bladder fills with this liquid, you will feel the urge to urinate. Tell the radiologist when the urge becomes uncomfortable.

  • X-rays are taken of the full bladder. The catheter is removed,¬†the bladder is then drained, and more X-rays are taken.

Call your doctor after the procedure 

Contact your doctor right away if you notice the following:

  • Blood in your urine after 3 urinations

  • Signs of infection, including chills, fever, increased heart rate, and fast breathing

After the Procedure

  • You may feel some burning during urination for a few hours after the test. Drink plenty of water after the procedure to help dilute your urine.

  • Your doctor will discuss your test results with you and recommend further testing or treatment.


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