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Intravenous Pyelogram (IVP)

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What is the test?

The intravenous pyelogram (IVP) is an x-ray test that uses a dye to show your urinary organs (the kidneys, ureters, and bladder). The dye is injected through an IV (intravenous) line. Since your body clears away the dye by moving all of it into your urine, the organs that make and hold urine show up very brightly on the x-rays. This test is useful for finding kidney stones, tumors, or blockages in the urinary tract.

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How do I prepare for the test?

Tell your doctor before the test if you have ever had an allergic reaction to x-ray dye (IV contrast dye). Also let your doctor know if you could be pregnant. If you have diabetes and take insulin, discuss this with your doctor before the test.

On the day before your test, you should drink plenty of fluids. This will help prepare your kidneys for the job of clearing out the dye the next day.

Your doctor will instruct you to eat a special diet the night before the test, so that you have less solid stool in your large intestine. (Large amounts of stool in the intestine can make it harder to interpret your x-rays.) Typical instructions might include using a laxative in the afternoon before your test and limiting your dinner the night before to clear liquids such as broth and juice.

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What happens when the test is performed?

You need to have an IV (intravenous) line placed in a vein in your arm or hand. In the x-ray department, you lie on your back on a table and an x-ray camera takes some initial pictures from above. X-ray dye is injected through the IV. You might feel some warm tingling in your arm when the dye is injected. During the next 30-60 minutes, a new x-ray is taken every few minutes. These x-rays show the dye in different stages as it moves through your kidneys and ureters and into your bladder. Each time an x-ray is taken, you are asked to hold your breath. Before the last x-ray, you are sent to a bathroom to empty your bladder.

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What risks are there from the test?

The dye used in the test can affect your kidneys, and sometimes they do not work as well after exposure to this dye. This effect is almost always temporary, but some people can have permanent damage. There is also a small chance of having an allergic reaction to the x-ray dye used in the test.

As with all x-rays, there is a small exposure to radiation. In large amounts, exposure to radiation can cause cancers or (in pregnant women) birth defects. The amount of radiation from x-ray tests is very small-too small to be likely to cause any harm. X-rays such as this kind in the pelvis area should be avoided in pregnant women, because the developing fetus is more sensitive to the risks from radiation.

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Must I do anything special after the test is over?

It is a good idea to drink plenty of fluids after this test to help clear the last bit of dye out of your system.

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How long is it before the result of the test is known?

It takes an hour or more for your pictures to be developed, and additional time for a radiologist to examine them and decide if your urinary tract appears normal. Your doctor will generally receive a report within a day or two of the test.

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