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What is an Intravenous Pyelography?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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An intravenous pyelography is a medical imaging study of the urinary tract. This test can be performed when a patient reports to the emergency room with symptoms of a urinary tract problem or as part of a routine workup of a patient who is experiencing health problems related to the urinary tract. It takes around an hour to complete an intravenous pyelogram. The risks of this test are very low, especially in facilities with experienced staff.

In intravenous pyelography, the patient is asked to urinate and then a contrast material is either injected or introduced through a catheter. The patient lies down under an X-ray machine and periodic images are snapped. The contrast agent will filter through the kidneys and then gradually make its way into the urinary tract, filling the bladder so that it can be eliminated from the body. As it travels, it will highlight the anatomical features of the urinary tract, providing a crisp, clear image for a care provider. At the end of the test, the patient voids the bladder again and a final image is taken.

The advantage of a medical imaging study with contrast is that it provides very clear, high quality pictures. Problems that may be hard to identify on regular studies will be more visible, making it more unlikely that the physician will miss a diagnosis. The intravenous pyelography study will also provide information about how long it takes for the patient's body to process waste products. Any blockages in the urinary tract will show up clearly on the images, offering information that can be used by a care provider to make recommendations for treatment.

Before intravenous pyelography can be performed, the patient will be interviewed. People who might be pregnant or are pregnant may not be good candidates for the study unless there is a pressing medical need. Likewise, people with a history of allergic reactions to contrast agents and people on certain medications may be at risk if they take the test. If the outcome of the interview is that the intravenous pyelography would not be safe for the patient, alternatives can be explored.

This diagnostic test can be used to identify or rule out possible causes for medical problems. Additional testing may be required to form a complete diagnostic picture so that the doctor can make appropriate treatment recommendations. Patients can facilitate this process by providing as many details as possible about the problem and their medical history.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGeek researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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