The role of voiding cystourethrography in the investigation of children with urinary tract infections

Linda C. Lee, Armando J. Lorenzo, Martin A. Koyle


Urinary tract infections (UTIs) represent a common bacterial cause of febrile illness in children. Of children presenting with a febrile UTI, 25‒40% are found to have vesicoureteral reflux (VUR). Historically, the concern regarding VUR was that it could lead to recurrent pyelonephritis, renal scarring, hypertension, and chronic kidney disease. As a result, many children underwent invasive surgical procedures to correct VUR. We now know that many cases of VUR are low-grade and have a high rate of spontaneous resolution. The roles of surveillance, antibiotic prophylaxis, endoscopic injection, and ureteral reimplantation surgery also continue to evolve. In turn, these factors have influenced the investigation of febrile UTIs.

Voiding cystourethrography (VCUG) is the radiographic test of choice to diagnose VUR. Due to its invasive nature and questionable benefit in many cases, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) no longer recommends VCUG routinely after an initial febrile UTI. Nevertheless, these guidelines pre-date the landmark Randomized Intervention of Children with Vesicoureteral Reflux (RIVUR) trial and there continues to be controversy regarding the diagnosis and management of VUR. This paper discusses the current literature regarding radiographic testing in children with febrile UTIs and presents a practical risk-based approach for deciding when to obtain a VCUG.

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