INTRAVENOUS PYELOGRAM (IVP)

An intravenous pyelogram (IVP) is an X-ray examination of the kidneys, ureters and urinary bladder that uses a contrast media that is injected into the veins.



An x-ray (radiograph) is a noninvasive medical test that helps physicians diagnose and treat medical conditions. Imaging with x-rays involves exposing a part of the body to a small dose of ionizing radiation to produce pictures of the inside of the body. X-rays are the oldest and most frequently used form of medical imaging.



When a contrast material is injected into a vein in the patient’s arm, it travels through the blood stream and collects in the kidneys and urinary tract, showing up as bright white areas on the x-ray images. An IVP allows the Radiologist to view and assess the anatomy and function of the kidneys, ureters and the bladder.

What are some common uses of the procedure?


​An intravenous pyelogram examination helps the physician assess abnormalities in the urinary system, as well as how quickly and efficiently the patient’s system is able to handle fluid waste.  The exam is used to help diagnose symptoms such as blood in the urine or pain in the side or lower back. The IVP exam can enable the radiologist to detect problems within the urinary tract resulting from:

  • kidney stones
  • enlarged prostate
  • tumors in the kidney, ureters or urinary bladder
  • surgery on the urinary tract




What does the equipment look like?


The equipment typically used for this examination consists of a radiographic table, an x-ray tube.




How is the procedure performed?


In an IVP exam, an iodine-containing contrast material is injected through a vein in the arm. The contrast material then collects in the kidneys, ureters and bladder, sharply defining their appearance in bright white on the x-ray images.X-ray images are taken at intervals and stored as a digital image on our PACS system. This examination is usually done on an outpatient basis.  The patient is positioned on the table and still x-ray images are taken. The contrast material is then injected, usually in a vein in the patient’s arm, followed by additional still images. The number of images taken depends on the reason for the examination and the patient’s anatomy.  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.  An IVP study is usually completed within an hour. However, because some kidneys function at a slower rate, the exam may last up to four hours.




What will I experience during and after the procedure?


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 radiologist 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 radiologist 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 discolour 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.




Who interprets the results and how do I get them?


A radiologist, a physician specifically trained to supervise and interpret radiology examinations, will analyze the images and send a signed report to you referring physician, who will discuss the results with you.




What are the Benefits?


  • Imaging of the urinary tract with IVP is a minimally invasive procedure.
  • IVP images provide valuable, detailed information to assist physicians in diagnosing and treating urinary tract conditions from kidney stones to cancer.
  • An IVP can often provide enough information about kidney stones and urinary tract obstructions to direct treatment with medication and avoid more invasive surgical procedures.
  • No radiation remains in a patient’s body after an x-ray examination.
  • X-rays usually have no side effects in the diagnostic range.​




Who interprets the results and how do I get them?


A radiologist, a physician specifically trained to supervise and interpret radiology examinations, will analyze the images and send a signed report to you referring physician, who will discuss the results with you.




What are the Risks?


  • There is always a slight chance of cancer from excessive exposure to radiation. However, the benefit of an accurate diagnosis far outweighs the risk.
  • The effective radiation dose for this procedure varies.
  • Contrast materials used in IVP studies can cause adverse allergic reactions in some people, sometimes requiring medical treatment.
  • Women should always inform their physician or Radiographer if there is any possibility that they are pregnant.




What are the limitations of IVP exams?


An IVP shows details of the inside of the urinary tract including the kidneys, ureters and bladder. CT or MRI may add valuable information about the functioning tissue of the kidneys and surrounding structures nearby the kidneys, ureters and bladder. Small urinary tract tumors and stones are more easily identified on these examinations. IVP exams are not usually indicated for pregnant women.




How should I prepare?


  • Our clinic will give you detailed instructions on how to prepare for your IVP study.
  • You will be instructed not to eat or drink after midnight on the night before your exam.
  • You will also be asked to take a mild laxative (in liquid form) the evening before the procedure which can be collected from us at the clinic.
  • You should inform your physician and the X-ray staff of any medications you are taking and if you have any allergies especially to shellfish, iodine or if you are an asthmatic.
  • You will be asked to fill in a consent form before the procedure is started.
  • You will be asked to remove some or all of your clothes and to wear a gown during the exam.
  • You may also be asked to remove jewelry, dentures, eye glasses and any metal objects or clothing that might interfere with the x-ray images.
  • Women should always inform their physician and the Radiographer if there is any possibility that they are pregnant.





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