The direct radionuclide cystogram (DRCG) scan, simply put, generates images of the bladder during the filling and urination phases. It is often used along with urine flowmetry to screen for vesico-ureteral reflux or any related problem in the lower urinary tract. Compared with the traditional radiological micturating cystogram, a DRCG scan is equally sensitive but produces less radiation.
Also called the nuclear voiding cystogram, this test is conducted by a nuclear medicine technologist who starts by gently inserting a catheter (thin flexible tube) into the urethra. Connected to the catheter is a saline bag containing a salt-water mix and traces of radioactive medicine.
As contents of the saline bag fill the patient’s bladder, a special camera takes pictures of what’s happening inside the bladder. The radioactive medicine appears clear in the images, so technologists are able to distinguish it.
The patient will urinate once his or her bladder is full. By then, the catheter is slowly removed. The entire procedure lasts between 45 and 60 minutes, and the results will be forwarded to the referring doctor after a day or two.
Chances are the patient will experience some discomfort while the test is being done and for a short time after. With children, it’s best to prepare them for the DRCG scan by giving them an idea of what to expect along with tips that might help them feel more comfortable (e.g., take deep slow breaths or imagine you’re blowing up a balloon as the catheter is put in place). You could also bring his or her favorite toy or blanket or request that a movie be played during the test itself. By the time you get home, ensure your child drinks plenty of water, as this can help relieve side effects such as the burning sensation that he or she might feel while urinating.