What Is a Radionuclide Cystogram?
A radionuclide cystogram is also known as a bladder scan.
It’s an imaging modality. Your doctor may use it to diagnose illnesses or
abnormalities in your bladder, such as:
- incomplete emptying
During this exam, small amounts of a radioactive fluid are
injected into your bladder through a thin, flexible tube called a catheter. The
fluid can show your doctor areas of concern when highlighted under a specialized
scanner. For example, it can reveal tumors or structural defects.
This procedure is generally painless. However, you may
experience some discomfort when the catheter is inserted or removed. Urination
may be uncomfortable for several hours following the scan.
Why the Test Is Performed
Your doctor may recommend this test if you’re having
problems with your bladder. This could include incomplete emptying of your
bladder, leakage of urine, or difficult urination. It’s also performed to
diagnose the cause of urinary tract infections, particularly in children.
Some of the most common reasons a radionuclide cystogram are
- bladder infection
- enlarged prostate gland
- frequent urinary tract infections (UTIs) without
an apparent cause
- nerve problems
- obstruction in your urine flow
- urine reflux, which is a backward flow of urine
from your bladder to your kidneys
Risks of a Radionuclide Cystogram
This test uses small amounts of radioactive material that
are considered safe.
The solution containing the radioactive material is injected
into your bladder through a catheter in your urethra. Your urethra is the tube that
allows urine to flow from your bladder to outside your body. You may feel
slight discomfort when the catheter is inserted and removed, but this typically
subsides shortly after the test.
Your urine may appear slightly pink after the test due to
bleeding from catheter insertion and removal. Some people experience urinary
tract infections as a result of the procedure, but this is rare.
How to Prepare
A radionuclide cystogram requires no special preparation.
You will have to remove all jewelry and change into a hospital gown prior to your
test. Your doctor will ask you questions about your medical history and
symptoms. It’s important to answer these questions as completely as possible to
help your doctor identify and minimize any potential side effects of the
How the Test Is Performed
The test will be performed in your hospital’s radiology
department or at a specialized testing facility.
You’ll begin by lying down on a scanner table. A nurse will
then insert a catheter into your urethra and up into your bladder. This may
cause some discomfort.
A solution containing radioactive tracers will flow through
the catheter into your bladder. This will allow your radiologist to view your
bladder using an X-ray scan. When your bladder is full, images will be taken of
your bladder using a special camera.
You may also have to urinate while images are taken. You may
urinate into a urinal or bedpan. More images are taken when your bladder is
When your radiologist is finished, the catheter will be
removed and the test will end. You will be free to leave when the test is
There’s no risk of radioactive tracers remaining in your
body because your bladder will completely expel them during normal urination.
Interpreting Your Test Results
Your radiologist will review your images and send the
findings to your doctor. Follow-up will depend on the results of your test.
If you’re experiencing urine reflux, it will show up in the
images taken during this test. If the flow of your urine is obstructed, this
test will help your doctor determine what’s blocking it. This test can also
help your doctor identify the best way to treat the problem.
Your doctor will discuss the best form of treatment for your
specific condition. In some cases, further testing may be needed.