An MCU(micturating cystourethrogram) is commonly used to check whether the kidneys and urinary tract are working properly. If your doctor advises that this test is necessary you will be sent an appointment with a written description of the test. If you need more information or are concerned about the tests then you should talk again to your doctor. It is important that you understand what the test involves so that you can explain to your child as simply as possible what will happen. There may be a play specialist at the hospital whose job it is to provide play preparation for the children having procedures such as this and, if so, you should contact her for help in explaining it to your child.

On the day of your child’s test your child must not have anything to eat or drink two hours before the test. Take with you some toys, spare nappies and a bottle or cup of drink for afterwards. In fact there can be quite a lot of waiting around and toys or some stories to read will come in handy. Before you have the test will meet the radiologist (the x-ray doctor) and the radiographer who is the technician operating the machines. The radiologist will explain the procedures to you and ask to sign a consent form.

MCU (Micturating Cystourethrogram)

During the procedure it is important that someone your child trusts stays with them. Usually this would be the child’s parent but if you feel you are unable to do this for any reason or you are pregnant then arrange for another relation or friend to stay with your child and you. As we said before it is helpful to your child to know what is going to happen. Otherwise they may feel distressed that you have tricked them. Tell your child a day or two beforehand that they are going to hospital to have some special photos taken of their tummy, that they will need to lie very still on a special x-ray bed while the photos are being taken but that you or someone else they know will be staying with them all the time. You may like to pretend play with your child that their teddy or doll is having the same procedure in order to help in explaining it. Babies and young children are placed on an x-ray bed. Some hospitals use special strapping or ask parents to firmly hold their child to ensure that they stay still for the procedure. It is natural that young children dislike to be restrained in this way and many will show their anger and protest by crying and struggling. Your reassuring voice and some small toy or other novelty to use as a distraction will be helpful to your child. Older children will co-operate and so do not need to be restrained.

The nurse or doctor will gently wash around the child’s genital area with warm water before inserting a catheter. Some gel is put on the catheter tube to help it slide gently into the urethra. Remember, in girls the opening of the urethra is above the vagina and in boys its at the end of the penis. Naturally many children and parents are anxious about this part of the procedure and it may feel uncomfortable. Older children may feel embarrassed. Staff will understand if your child protests by crying and will do their best to ensure the procedure is done as smoothly and as quickly as possible. Again, your calm voice encouraging your child to relax and reassuring that he/she is doing well is very helpful. A special contrast liquid is run into the catheter until it fills the bladder. This takes about 5 minutes and then your child will need to pass urine. Tell the doctor what words to use such as ‘peepee’, ‘meemee’ or ‘wee’ when they need your child to urinate. Some children will be reluctant to wee lying down on the x-ray table. They need to know that it is okay for them to do this and it does not matter if their clothes get a little wet. Everyone in the x-ray room will be wearing lead aprons to protect them from the x-rays as they have to work with them every day. However, the amount of radiation your child is exposed to is very small and carefully controlled. X-ray pictures are taken as the child passes urine. These show if the urine is going back up into the kidneys or if there is an unusual path for the urine. The x-rays will need to be developed and checked to make sure that have not been blurred by too much movement. This will take 5-10 minutes. The catheter will then be gently removed. The child will then be asked to do wees in the toilet again and another x-ray picture taken to see if the bladder is empty. The doctor will tell you if they have found anything unusual. Afterwards your child will welcome a nice cuddle and lots of praise for doing well.

With the MCU test there may occasionally be a tiny bit of bleeding or stinging from the urethra. It is important to give lots of fluids to drink to flush out the system. Give your child lots of love and praise for doing well.