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Intravenous urography is a test which x rays the urinary system using intravenous dye for diagnostic purposes.
Of the many ways to obtain images of the urinary system, the intravenous injection of a contrast agent has been traditionally considered the best. The kidneys excrete the dye into the urine. X rays can then create pictures of every structure through which the urine passes.
The procedure has several variations and many names.
- Intravenous pyelography (IVP).
- Antegrade pyelography differentiates this procedure from "retrograde pyelography," which injects dye into the lower end of the system, therefore flowing backward or "retrograde." Retrograde pyelography is better able to define problems in the lower parts of the system and is the only way to get x rays if the kidneys are not working well.
- Nephrotomography is somewhat different in that the x rays are taken by a moving x ray source onto a film moving in the opposite direction. By accurately coordinating the movement, all but a single plane of tissue is blurred, and that plane is seen without overlying shadows.
Every method available gives good pictures of this system, and the question becomes one of choosing among many excellent alternatives. Each condition has special requirements, while each technique has distinctive benefits and drawbacks.
- Nuclear scans rely on the radiation given off by certain atoms. Chemicals containing such atoms are injected into the bloodstream. They reach the kidneys, where images are constructed by measuring the radiation emitted. The radiation is no more dangerous than standard x rays. The images require considerable training to interpret, but unique information is often available using this technology. Different chemicals can concentrate the radiation in different types of tissue. This technique may require several days for the chemical to concentrate at its destination. It also requires a special detector to create the image.
- Ultrasound is a quick, safe, simple, and inexpensive way to obtain views of internal organs. Although less detailed than other methods, it may be sufficient.
- Retrograde pyelography is better able to define problems in the lower parts of the system and is the only way to get x rays if the kidneys are not working well. Dye is usually injected through an instrument (cystoscope) passed into the bladder through the urethra.
- Computed tomography scans (CT or CAT scanning) uses the same kind of radiation used in x rays, but it collects information by computer in such a way that three dimensional images can be constructed, eliminating interference from nearby structures. CT scanning requires a special apparatus.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) uses magnetic fields and radio frequency signals, instead of ionizing radiation, to create computerized images. This form of energy is entirely safe as long as the patient has no metal on board. The technique is far more versatile than CT scanning. MRI requires special apparatus and, because of the powerful magnets needed, even a special building all by itself. It is quite expensive.
Most diseases of the kidneys, ureters, and bladder will yield information to this procedure, which actually has two phases. First, it requires a functioning kidney to filter the dye out of the blood into the urine. The time required for the dye to appear on x rays correlates accurately with kidney function. The second phase gives detailed anatomical images of the urinary tract. Within the first few minutes the dye "lights up" the kidneys, a phase called the nephrogram. Subsequent pictures follow the dye down the ureters and into the bladder. A final film taken after urinating reveals how well the bladder empties.
IVPs are most often done to assess structural abnormalities or obstruction to urine flow. If kidney function is at issue, more films are taken sooner to catch the earliest phase of the process.
- Stones, tumors and congenital malformations account for many of the findings.
- Kidney cysts and cancers can be seen.
- Displacement of a kidney or ureter suggests a space-occupying lesion like a cancer pushing it out of the way.
- Bad valves where the ureters enter the bladder will often show up.
- Bladder cancers and other abnormalities are often outlined by the dye in the bladder.
- An enlarged prostate gland will show up as incomplete bladder emptying and a bump at the bottom of the bladder.
The only serious complication of an IVP is allergy to the iodine-containing dye that is used. Such an allergy is rare, but it can be dramatic and even lethal. Emergency measures taken immediately are usually effective.
IVPs are usually done in the morning. In the x ray suite, the patient will undress and lie down. There are two methods of injecting the dye. An intravenous line can be established, through which the dye will be consistently fed through the body during the procedure. The other method is to give the dye all at once through a needle that is immediately withdrawn. X rays are taken until the dye has reached the bladder, an interval of half an hour or less. The patient will be asked to empty the bladder before one last x ray.
Emptying the bowel with laxatives or enemas prevents bowel shadows from obscuring the details of the urinary system. An empty stomach prevents the complications of vomiting, a rare effect of the contrast agent. Therefore, the night before the IVP the patient will be asked to evacuate the bowels and to drink sparingly.
Allergy to the contrast agent is the only risk. Anyone with a possible iodine allergy or a previous reaction to x ray dye must be particularly careful to inform the x ray personnel.
Merrill, Vinta. Atlas of Roentgenographic Positions and Standard Radiologic Procedures. Saint Louis: The C.V. Mosby Co., 1975.
Contrast agent — Any substance that causes shadows on x rays, also known as contrast dye or medium.
Intravenous — Into a vein.
radiography of any part of the urinary tract.
ascending urography (cystoscopic urography) retrograde urography.
descending urography (excretion urography) (excretory urography) (intravenous urography) urography after intravenous injection of an opaque medium that is rapidly excreted in the urine.
retrograde urography urography after injection of contrast medium into the bladder through the urethra.
in·tra·ve·nous u·rog·ra·phy, excretory urography
radiography of kidneys, ureters, and bladder following injection of contrast medium into a peripheral vein.
in·tra·ve·nous u·rog·ra·phy, excretory urography (in'tră-vē'nŭs yūr-og'ră-fē, eks'krĕ-tōr-ē)
Radiography of kidneys, ureters, and bladder following injection of contrast medium into a peripheral vein.