Intravenous pyelogram (IVP)

What is an intravenous pyelogram (IVP)?

An intravenous pyelogram, also called intravenous urography, is a diagnostic x-ray of the kidneys, ureters, and bladder. When a contrast agent is injected intravenously, the urinary tract will show up very clearly, which is not seen on regular x-rays. An intravenous pyelogram may be done for many reasons, including the following:

  • to detect kidney tumors
  • to identify blockages or obstructions of the normal flow of urine
  • to detect kidney or bladder stones
  • to establish if the prostate gland is enlarged
  • to detect injuries to the urinary tract

How are intravenous pyelograms performed?

Intravenous pyelograms are usually performed on an outpatient basis, although they can be part of inpatient care. The patient may also be asked to take a laxative to cleanse the bowel before the examination. The procedure is performed with minimal risk to the patient. Although each hospital may have specific protocols in place, generally, an intravenous pyelogram procedure follows this process:

  1. The patient is positioned on the x-ray table.
  2. A preliminary x-ray is taken.
  3. The radiologist injects the contrast agent into the vein in the arm.
  4. During the injection of the contrast agent, the patient may feel warm and become flushed, only for a minute or so. This reaction is normal.
  5. X-rays are taken as the dye travels through the urinary tract.
  6. At times the patient may have to change positions as the x-rays are taken. The patient may also be asked to empty the bladder.
  7. A final x-ray is taken after urination to determine the amount of contrast dye remaining in the urinary tract.