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IVU (Intravenous urogram) or IVP (Intravenous pyelogram)

Find out about an IVU (Intravenous urogram) or IVP (Intravenous pyelogram) including what it is, how you have it and what happens afterwards.

An intravenous urogram (IVU) is sometimes called an intravenous pyelogram (IVP). It is a test that looks at the whole of your urinary system. It looks at the:

  • kidneys
  • bladder
  • tubes that connect them (ureters)

The male urinary system

Diagram of the male urinary system

The female urinary system

The female urinary system

The test uses a colourless dye, also called contrast medium. This shows up the soft tissues of the urinary system on a normal x-ray.

Why you might have it

An IVU can show if cancer is growing in any part of your urinary system. The cancer will show up as a blockage or an irregular outline on the wall of the bladder or ureter.

Preparing for an IVU

You will be told before your appointment if you need to stop eating or drinking for a couple of hours before the test.

Having an IVU

You have this test in the hospital x-ray department (radiology). It is usual to have this test done as an outpatient. Apart from a small injection of the dye, the test does not hurt at all. Your appointment letter will say if you need to stop eating or drinking before the test.

After you have changed into a hospital gown, the radiographer will take you into the x-ray room. They will inject some dye into a vein in your arm. The injection may make you feel hot and some people get a metallic taste. These feelings usually only last a minute or two.

The radiographer can watch the dye on an x-ray screen, as it goes through your kidneys and then through the ureters. They take x-rays as the dye passes through your system. Before the last x-ray, they may ask you to go to the toilet to empty your bladder.

After the test

You can go home as soon as the test is over. You can eat and drink normally.

The radiographer may tell you to drink plenty for a couple of hours after the test to help flush the dye out of your system.

Possible risks

Most people do not have problems having this test, but as with any medical procedure, there are possible risks. Doctors make sure the benefits of having the test outweigh these risks.

As you have x-rays for this test, you are exposed to radiation. The amount of radiation is kept to the minimum necessary. If you are pregnant, or think you might be, you should contact the x-ray department before your appointment.

There is a risk of having an allergic reaction to the injection of dye, though this is rare. If this happens, the staff will give you medicines to control the reaction. The radiographer will ask if you have any allergies or asthma before you have the test.

Getting your results

You should get your results within 1 or 2 weeks.

Waiting for test results can be a very worrying time. You might have contact details for a specialist nurse and you can contact them for information if you need to. It can help to talk to a close friend or relative about how you feel.

You can also contact the Cancer Research UK nurses on freephone 0808 800 4040. The lines are open from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.

Contact the doctor who arranged the test if you haven’t heard anything after a couple of weeks.

More information

We have more information on tests, treatment and support if you have been diagnosed with cancer.

Last reviewed: 
25 Apr 2015
  • Cancer and its management (7th edition)
    J Tobias and D Hochhauser 
    Blackwell, 2015

  • Information for patients having an intravenous pyelogram (IVP) or an intravenous urogram (IVU)

    The Royal College of Radiologists, December 2010

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