A kidney X-ray, known as a retrograde pyelography, is a test that helps your doctor look at how your urinary system is working and check that the shape and size of your organs are normal. Your urinary system includes your two kidneys and the bladder, the tube that connects each kidney to the bladder (ureters), and the tube that carries urine from the bladder to the outside (urethra).
A referral letter from a consultant or GP is required before booking any diagnostic investigation.
Urinary problems are uncomfortable, sometimes painful and embarrassing for some people, so we understand your desire to have them treated quickly and thoroughly.
A retrograde pyelography is a procedure your doctor may recommend that you have done if other tests have been inconclusive. The test can help find out what is the cause of your urinary problem. It can identify obstructions such as stones, tumours, blood clots or narrowing in the kidneys or ureters.
Once the problem is identified, you and your doctor will have a better understanding of your medical problem so he or she can offer the most suitable advice and treatment.
It is usually performed as a day case so you won’t usually have to spend the night in hospital. A general anaesthetic is used so you are asleep throughout the procedure. In rare cases, it may be done under local or regional anaesthesia. (source: British Association of Urological Surgeons)
Our highly experienced consultants will explain all the medical issues and discuss what they are proposing to do to help you, guiding you every step of the way.
If you decide to have your procedure with us, you will be looked after by an experienced multidisciplinary care team.
Our patients are at the heart of what we do and we want you to be in control of your care.
All of our radiographers are of the highest standard and benefit from working in our modern, well-equipped hospitals.
You will need a referral letter from a consultant or GP before booking any diagnostic investigation.
You will have a formal consultation with a healthcare professional. During this time you will be able to explain your medical history, symptoms and raise any concerns that you might have.
We will also discuss with you whether any further diagnostic tests, such as scans or blood tests, are needed. Any additional costs will be discussed before further tests are carried out.
We've tried to make your experience with us as easy and relaxed as possible.
For more information on visiting hours, our food, what to pack if you're staying with us, parking and all those other important practicalities, please visit our patient information pages.
Our dedicated team will also give you tailored advice to follow in the run up to your visit.
We understand that having medical treatment can often be a time of anxiety and worry, but our experienced and caring medical staff will be there for you, holding your hand, every step of the way.
Before the procedure, you will be given antibiotics at the same time as the anaesthesia to reduce the chance of getting an infection. Once the anaesthetic is working, your doctor will carefully pass a rigid telescope (cystoscope) through the urethra (the tube that allows urine to pass outside your body) into the bladder.
The cystoscope, which has a tiny light and lens on the end of the tube, allows your doctor to examine the inside of your bladder.
Then your doctor will insert a thin tube, called a catheter, through the cystoscope and inject a contrast dye that shows up on X-ray pictures.
Above your pelvis, an X-ray machine will be positioned to take pictures as the dye flows through your bladder, ureters and into the kidneys.
The contrast is then drained away and the catheter is removed.
The test usually takes up to 20 minutes.
Your doctor will study the X-ray pictures to find out if there is any interruption in the urine flow and will discuss the results of your test with you. You may receive a diagnosis and start new treatment immediately or you may be advised that you need surgery. In some cases, your doctor may need more time to assess the results, and you will be asked to come for a follow-up appointment to discuss the results and further treatment.
This procedure is performed as a day case, so you will be able to go home the same day, usually once you have made a full recovery from the anaesthesia. However, you will need to arrange for someone to drive you home and then stay with you for the first 24 hours.
After the procedure, you may feel a little sore where the cystoscope was inserted. If you need them, continue taking painkillers as advised by the hospital.
We will provide you with a supply of all the medicines your consultant feels you need to take home with you after you've left hospital, up to 14 days. This may be at an additional cost to some patients.
You should be able to return to your job in a couple of days. General anaesthesia can temporarily affect your co-ordination and reasoning skills, so you should not drive, drink alcohol, operate machinery or sign legal documents for 48 hours afterwards. If you are in any doubt about driving, please contact your motor insurer so that you are aware of their recommendations, and always follow your doctor's advice. Once home, you may need to pass urine frequently for a few days and you might experience a burning sensation when you do.
Even once you've left hospital, we're still here for you. If anything out of the ordinary is found during the scan, we offer integrated medical care and can create a treatment plan to help put you back on the road to good health.
Like all medical treatments, complications can occur but most people are not affected. These include urinary tract infection and you will be given an antibiotic to help prevent this. Other potential complications include temporary swelling of the urethra and a small risk that the bladder or urethra wall can be damaged by the cystoscope or the catheter.
You should contact the hospital immediately if you feel unwell or have constant pain, develop a high temperature or fever, feel a burning sensation on passing urine or if your urine becomes smelly. Your consultant will talk to you about the possible risks and complications of having this procedure and how they apply to you.
If you have any questions or concerns, we're ready to help.
We are committed to delivering excellent individual care and customer service across our network of hospitals, clinics and specialist care centres around the UK. Our dedicated and highly trained team aim to achieve consistently excellent results. For us it's more than just treating patients, it's about looking after people.
The treatment described on this page may be adapted to meet your individual needs, so it's important to follow your healthcare professional's advice and raise any questions that you may have with them.
We have excellent road links to the M1 and A1(M), and are five minutes from Harpenden train station.
COVID-19 testing or antibody tests are not available as a standalone service at Spire Harpenden Hospital.