What to Expect During an Intravenous Pyelogram

In the IVP exam, an iodine-containing contrast material is injected through a vein in the arm collects in the kidneys, ureters and bladder, giving these areas a bright white and sharply defined appearance on the X-ray images.

This examination is usually done on an outpatient basis.

You are positioned on the table and still X-ray images are taken. The contrast material is then injected, usually in a vein in your arm, followed by additional still images.

You must hold very still and may be asked to keep from breathing for a few seconds while the X-ray picture is taken to reduce the possibility of a blurred image. The technician will walk behind a wall or into the next room to activate the X-ray machine.

As the contrast material is processed by the kidneys a series of images is taken to determine the actual size of the kidneys and to capture the urinary tract in action as it begins to empty. The technologist may apply a compression band around the body to better visualize the urinary structures leading from the kidney.

When the examination is complete, you will be asked to wait until the radiologist determines that all the necessary images have been obtained.

Time Consideration

An IVP study is usually completed within an hour. However, because some kidneys empty at a slower rate the exam may last up to four hours.

Other Factors

The IVP is usually a relatively comfortable procedure.

You will feel a minor sting as the contrast material is injected into your arm through a small needle. Some patients experience a flush of warmth, a mild itching sensation and a metallic taste in their mouth as it begins to circulate throughout their body. These common side effects usually disappear within a minute or two and are harmless. Rarely, some patients will experience an allergic reaction. Itching that persists or is accompanied by hives, can be easily treated with medication. In very rare cases, a patient may become short of breath or experience swelling in the throat or other parts of the body. These can be indications of a more serious reaction to the contrast material that should be treated promptly. Tell the radiology technician immediately if you experience these symptoms.

During the imaging process, you may be asked to turn from side to side and to hold several different positions to enable the radiology technician to capture views from several angles. Near the end of the exam, you may be asked to empty your bladder so that an additional X-ray can be taken of your urinary bladder after it empties.

The contrast material used for IVP studies will not discolor your urine or cause any discomfort when you urinate. If you experience such symptoms after your IVP exam, you should let your doctor know immediately.