AUA Summit - What are Contrast and Radionuclide Cystography Tests?


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What are Contrast and Radionuclide Cystography Tests?

These tests are used to diagnose bladder problems. It helps your urologist see how well the bladder works, and to find the cause of infections or check for tumors or stones. It is a way to look closely at the bladder walls.

  • Contrast cystography uses a contrast dye in the bladder for clearer x-rays. They may be standard x-rays or fluoroscopy. Fluoroscopy streams x-ray images, like a movie.
  • Radionuclide cystography is also known as a Bladder Scan. For this test, your radiologist or nurse will inject a radioactive fluid into your bladder for x-rays.

Cystography is often used to diagnose bladder fistula, bladder rupture, bladder stones, or vesicoureteral reflux (VUR). Many physicians believe that the Bladder Scan is better to find VUR because it less radiation.

Your doctor will talk with you about which test to use, and when.


For this test, the doctor will insert a catheter through the urethra and into the bladder. A contrast dye or radioactive agent is moved through the catheter into the bladder.

Pictures (images) are taken during this process from different angles to see all parts of the bladder. Images are also taken after the dye is drained (see the voiding cystourethrogram (VCUG) article for more information.

The radionuclide process is often used to diagnose VUR . With this, images are collected every 10 to 15 seconds. Contrast cystograms are often used to look at the male urethra for bladder trauma, for example.


The risks are low with this test. Some patients could get a urinary tract infection (about 3%) from the catheter. Also, the catheter could damage the urethra, bladder or nearby structures. It’s best to work with a highly experienced urologist.

A very small number of people have an allergic reaction to the contrast agent. It is rare because the agents are put into the urinary system, not the blood stream.

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