What is a kidney, ureter, and bladder X-ray?

This type of X-ray may be done to check the stomach for causes of pain. It may also be done to check the organs and structures of the urinary or gastrointestinal (GI) system. The X-ray may be the first diagnostic procedure used to check the urinary system.

X-rays use beams of energy that pass through body tissues onto a special film and make a picture. They show pictures of your internal tissues, bones, and organs.

Why might I need a kidney, ureter, and bladder X-ray?

The X-ray may be done to diagnose the cause of stomach pain. This can include things such as masses, perforations, or blockage. The X-ray may be taken to look at the urinary tract before other diagnostic procedures are done. Stones in the kidneys or ureters may be noted.

There may be other reasons for your healthcare provider to recommend an X-ray.

What are the risks of a kidney, ureter, and bladder X-ray?

You may want to ask your healthcare provider about the amount of radiation used during the procedure and the risks related to your particular situation. Keep a record of your past history of radiation exposure. Tell your healthcare provider about any previous scans and other types of X-rays. Risks associated with radiation exposure may be related to the total number of X-ray exams or treatments over a long period of time.

Tell your healthcare provider if you are pregnant or think that you may be pregnant. Radiation exposure during pregnancy may lead to birth defects.

There may be other risks depending on your specific medical problem. Discuss any concerns with your healthcare provider before the procedure.

Certain things make an X-ray less accurate. These include:

  • Recent barium X-rays of the stomach
  • Gas, feces, or foreign body in the intestine
  • Masses in the uterus or ovary

How do I get ready for a kidney, ureter, and bladder X-ray?

Recommendations for preparation include the following:
  • Your healthcare provider will explain the procedure to you and offer you the opportunity to ask any questions that you might have about the procedure.
  • Generally, no prior preparation, such as fasting or sedation, is required.
  • Tell the radiologic technologist if you are pregnant or think you may be pregnant.
  • Tell your healthcare provider and radiologic technologist if you have taken a medicine that contains bismuth, such as Pepto-Bismol, in the past four days. Medicines that contain bismuth may get in the way with testing procedures.
  • Based on your medical problem, your healthcare provider may request other specific preparation.

What happens during a kidney, ureter, and bladder X-ray?

A kidney, ureter, and bladder X-ray may be done on an outpatient basis. It can also be done as part of your hospital stay. Procedures may vary depending on your condition and your healthcare provider’s practices.

Generally, an X-ray follows this process:

  1. You will be asked to remove any clothing, jewelry, or other objects that might get in the way of the procedure.
  2. If you are asked to remove clothing, you will be given a gown to wear.
  3. You will be placed in a way that carefully places the part of the stomach that is to be X-rayed between the X-ray machine and the film. You may be asked to stand up, lie flat on a table, or lie on your side on a table, depending on the X-ray view your healthcare provider has requested. You may have X-rays taken from more than one position.
  4. Body parts not being imaged may be covered with a lead shield to avoid exposure to the X-rays.
  5. Once you are positioned, the radiologic technologist will ask you to hold still for a few moments while the X-ray exposure is made.
  6. It is very important to stay completely still while the X-ray is taken. Any movement may alter the image and may even need another X-ray to be done.
  7. The X-ray beam will be focused on the area to be photographed.
  8. The radiologic technologist will step behind a protective window while the image is taken.

While the X-ray procedure itself causes no pain, moving the body part being examined may cause some discomfort or pain, particularly in the case of a recent injury or invasive procedure, such as surgery. The radiologic technologist will use all possible comfort measures and complete the procedure as quickly as possible to reduce any discomfort or pain.

What happens after a kidney, ureter, and bladder X-ray?

Usually you don't need any special care after a kidney, ureter, and bladder X-ray. Your healthcare provider may give you other instructions, depending on your situation.

Next steps

Before you agree to the test or the procedure make sure you know:

  • The name of the test or procedure
  • The reason you are having the test or procedure
  • What results to expect and what they mean
  • The risks and benefits of the test or procedure
  • What the possible side effects or complications are
  • When and where you are to have the test or procedure
  • Who will do the test or procedure and what that person’s qualifications are
  • What would happen if you did not have the test or procedure
  • Any alternative tests or procedures to think about
  • When and how will you get the results
  • Who to call after the test or procedure if you have questions or problems
  • How much will you have to pay for the test or procedure