by Stahl RJ


A cystogram uses contrast material to create images of the:

  • Bladder
  • Ureters—tubes that carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder
  • Urethra—the tube that carries urine from the bladder to the outside of the body
The Urinary Tract
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Reasons for Procedure

A cystogram helps your doctor gain more information about the urinary system. For example, if you are having urine leakage, your doctor may be able to find the cause.

A cystogram can also be used to diagnose conditions like:

  • Vesicoureteral reflux —urine flows from the bladder back towards the kidneys
  • Bladder distention—enlargement of the bladder
  • Bladder irregularities, such as bladder cancer and incomplete voiding

Possible Complications

Problems from the test are rare. However, all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, like:

  • Urinary tract infection due to the catheter being inserted
  • Bleeding due to the catheter being inserted
  • Discomfort during urination, which may last several hours
  • Allergic reaction to the contrast material

Talk to your doctor about these risks before the procedure.

What to Expect

Prior to Procedure

There are no special steps to take before a cystogram. However, it is important that you tell your doctor if you:

  • Are pregnant or breastfeeding
  • Have a cold or the flu , or have recently been around people who are sick
  • Are allergic to contrast material
  • Take diabetes medication

Description of the Procedure

You will be asked to lie on a table. A catheter will be inserted into the urethra and positioned into the bladder. A contrast material will be inserted through the catheter and into the bladder to fill it. When your bladder is full, x-rays will be taken of the ureters, bladder, and urethra. You will be asked to remain still while the images are taken. You may also need to move into different positions.

If your doctor needs to see how your urethra is functioning, you may be asked to urinate into a bedpan while x-rays are taken. Additional images may be needed after you have emptied your bladder.

The catheter will be removed during the procedure.

How Long Will It Take?

About 1 hour

Will It Hurt?

You may have some discomfort when:

  • The catheter is placed into the urethra
  • The contrast material goes into the bladder

Post-procedure Care

At the Care Center

You will be able to go home after the test.

At Home

Your doctor should have the results in a few days. Be sure to follow-up with your doctor.

Call Your Doctor

Call your doctor if any of these occur:

  • Blood in the urine that lasts longer than expected
  • Discomfort during urination that lasts longer than expected
  • Pain
  • Fever
  • Inability to urinate

If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.


National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases 

Urology Care Foundation 


Canadian Urological Association 

Health Canada 


Cystogram. Children’s Hospital of Chicago website. Available at: Accessed January 29, 2021.

Cystogram. University of Washington Medicine website. Available at: Accessed January 29, 2021.

The urinary tract and how it works. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website. Available at: Accessed January 29, 2021.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Adrienne Carmack, MD
  • Review Date: 03/2020
  • Update Date: 01/29/2021