Cystography (Retrograde Cystography)

Cystography (also called retrograde cystography) is a detailed X-ray exam of your bladder. For this procedure, your bladder is filled with an X-ray dye (contrast medium). The dye lets your bladder be seen more clearly on the X-ray images. This procedure is done by a radiologist.

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:

  • Kidney stones

  • Wounds or bursting (rupture) of your bladder wall

  • Urinary tract infection

  • Blood clots

  • Tumors

Getting ready for your procedure

  • If instructed, empty your bowel before the exam using a medicine (laxative) or a liquid injected into your rectum (enema).

  • Empty your bladder before the exam.

Tell your provider if you:

  • Have any allergies to X-ray dye

  • Have a bladder infection

  • Are pregnant or think you may be pregnant

Follow any other instructions you are given.

During your 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 thin tube (catheter) will be put into your urethra up to your bladder. You will feel pressure. The dye will be slowly put through the catheter into your bladder. As your bladder fills with this liquid, you will feel the need to urinate. Tell the radiologist when this becomes uncomfortable.

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

Possible risks and complications

  • Infection or bruising at the place where the tube is put into your urethra

  • Problems due to the dye. This includes an allergic reaction or kidney damage.

  • Radiation exposure to your reproductive organs

After your procedure

  • You may feel some burning when you urinate the first few times after the test. Drink plenty of water after the exam to help flush the dye out of your body. 

  • Your provider will discuss your test results with you. He or she will recommend more testing or treatment as needed.

When to call your healthcare provider

Call your provider right away if you have:

  • Blood in your urine, after you have gone to the bathroom three times 

  • Signs of infection, such as chills, fever, rapid heartbeat, or fast breathing      

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