What is an Intravenous Pyelogram Procedure?

What is it?

While it’s less likely to use contrast (an iodine mixture) with an x-ray (as opposed to a CT or MRI, a combination more common), but that’s what an intravenous pyelogram procedure is - an x-ray examination that focuses on the kidneys, ureters, and urinary bladder with the use of contrast. Sometimes, an intravenous pyelogram procedure is also called an excretory urogram.

The contrast is typically injected into the patient’s arm so it can travel through the blood and settle in the kidneys surrounding organs. The contrast is important because it glows in the imaging, and radiologists can then assess the area more easily.

If you’re asking, “what is an IVP?” you’re not alone. You may not have heard of this before because many urinary tract disorders can now be diagnosed with a kidney ultrasound, a fairly new development. The kidney ultrasound is faster and doesn’t require the contrast dye. However, the dye and x-ray of the intravenous pyelogram procedure is very detailed, so if your doctor requests one, it’s probably a good idea.

Do I Need One?

IVP is used to evaluate abnormalities in the urinary system. The contrast highlights organs like the kidneys, ureters, and the bladder. The test also can evaluate how well and how quickly your system handles fluid waste.

An intravenous pyelogram procedure can test for/be helpful with:

      Kidney stones

      Enlarged prostate

      Tumors in the kidney, ureters, or bladder

      Scarring from a urinary tract infection

      Surgery on the urinary tract

      Congenital anomalies of the urinary tract

An abnormal test result could mean kidney disease, birth defects, tumors, kidney stones, or other damage to the urinary system, so it’s an important test to take. However, iodine can actually have a negative effect on kidney function, so this procedure is typically used to diagnose/find an issue. It’s less likely this procedure will be used during or after treatment.

How to Prepare

Your doctor and the radiologist performing the procedure should give you ample instruction, and don’t be afraid to ask questions if you have them. However, typically, you would be asked to take a mild laxative the evening before the procedure and not eat or drink anything after the midnight before your procedure. This is done to help ensure the image collected is as clear as possible.

What is It Like?

The dye, though not harmful nor damaging, can feel strange to some. Patients sometimes report a burning or “flushing” sensation in their arms and body. It is also normal to find a metallic taste in your mouth and feeling sensitive to the touch. Some patients say the belt around their kidneys feels tight or heavy.

Uncommon side effects of the dye include headaches, nausea, or vomiting. The biggest risk with IVP usually involves a patient’s iodine allergy, so talk to your doctor if you’re aware this is an allergy you have. The x-ray itself is virtually harmless, though it does use a small amount of radiation so pregnant women are unlikely to receive the test.

By Joanna Hynes

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