Intravenous pyelogram

An intravenous pyelogram, or IVP, is a minimally invasive procedure that uses x-ray to visualize the kidneys, ureters and bladder. An IVP technologist performs the exam and the pediatric radiologist reviews the images. An IVP shows how well your child's kidneys drain urine and if he has any problems, such as blockage or swelling.

How Boston Children's Hospital approaches IVPs

IVPs are performed in our Division of Diagnostic Radiology, which has an experienced team of pediatric radiologists, nurses, technologists and a Child Life specialist dedicated to making your child's visit as safe, pleasant and comfortable as possible.

When is an IVP needed?

Your child's doctor may have requested an IVP to check urine flow if there is concern that your child has had kidney, ureter or bladder blockage, or to check the function and appearance of his urinary tract after surgery. If not fixed, these blockages can cause permanent damage to the kidneys.

How do I prepare my child for the test?

We suggest talking to your child about why the test is important and what it is designed to accomplish. Explain that you will be close by the entire time.

What happens during the IVP?

When you arrive, a brief but thorough medical history will be taken about your child. After review of the medical information, an X-ray will be taken of your child's abdomen. After reviewing the picture, a technologist will examine your child to determine the best site for the IV injection. The technologist will numb his skin with a topical anesthetic before placing an IV in his arm, hand or foot. The technologist will then inject a contrast agent into the IV. The contrast will illuminate the kidneys and urinary tract on x-ray images. During the injection, your child may feel a cool or warm sensation. After the injection, the technologist will take pictures at timed intervals.

The radiologist will then take a sequence of x-ray pictures to watch your child's urinary tract function in real time. This allows the doctor to see any abnormalities or blockages. The radiologist may ask your child to change position from time to time. The whole test takes between 30 minutes and one hour.

How will I learn the results?

The radiologist will interpret the images and prepare a written report for the doctor who referred your child for the study.

Are there risks associated with IVP?

Your child will be exposed to ionizing radiation (x-rays) during this procedure. While we always attempt to minimize exposure to x-rays, we believe that the benefit of an accurate diagnosis outweighs the exposure that occurs during the exam. Because children are more sensitive to radiation exposure than adults, we have been leaders in adjusting equipment and procedures to deliver the lowest possible dose to young patients.

Contrast material used in IVP studies can sometimes cause allergic reactions.  If your child has had an allergic reaction to contrast material used for CT scans or IVPs in the past, or has a history of allergies in general, be sure to notify his physician.  In addition, please notify the staff at Children's who will be helping to perform or interpret the test.

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Department of Radiology