Kidney, Ureter, and Bladder X-Ray Study

Kidney, Ureter, and Bladder X-Ray Study



A kidney, ureter, and bladder (KUB) x-ray study is an abdominal x ray. Despite its name, KUB does not show the ureters and only sometimes shows the kidneys and bladder and, even then, with uncertainty.


The KUB study is a diagnostic test used to detect kidney stones and to diagnose some gastrointestinal disorders. The KUB is also used as a follow-up procedure after the placement of devices such as ureteral stents and nasogastric or nasointestinal tubes (feeding tubes) to verify proper positioning.


Because of the risks of radiation exposure to the fetus, pregnant women are advised to avoid this x-ray procedure.
A KUB study is a preliminary screening test for kidney stones, and should be followed by a more sophisticated series of diagnostic tests [such as an abdominal ultrasound, intravenous urography, or computed tomography scan (CT scan)] if kidney stones are suspected.


A KUB is typically a single x-ray procedure. The patient lies flat on his back on an x-ray table. An x-ray plate is placed underneath him near the small of the back, and the x-ray camera is aimed at his abdomen. The patient is asked to hold his breath and lie still while the x ray is taken. Sometimes a second KUB will be ordered, with the patient standing, or if unable to do so, lying on his side.


A KUB study requires no special diet, fluid restrictions, medications, or other preparation. The patient is typically required to wear a hospital gown or similar attire and to remove all jewelry so the x-ray camera has an unobstructed view of the abdomen. A lead apron may be placed over the abdominal areas of the body not being x rayed to shield the patient from unnecessary radiation.


No special aftercare treatment or regimen is required for a KUB study.


Because the KUB study is an x-ray procedure, it does involve minor exposure to radiation.

Normal results

Normal KUB x-ray films show two kidneys of a similar size and shape. A normal amount of intestinal gas is seen.

Key terms

Ureteral stent — A surgical device implanted in patients with damaged ureters that holds the ureter open so that urine can flow freely from the kidneys to the bladder.

Abnormal results

Abnormal KUB films may show calculi (kidney stones). If both kidneys are visible, it may be possible to diagnose renal size discrepancies. The films may also show too much bowel gas indicating possible obstruction or soft tissue masses.



Pagana, Kathleen Deska. Mosby's Manual of Diagnostic and Laboratory Tests. St. Louis: Mosby, Inc., 1998.
Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.