Health Information

Related Specialties and Services

Division of Urology

Pediatric Urology Conditions

Vesicoureteral Reflux (VUR)

What is vesicoureteral reflux (VUR)?

The kidneys produce urine. The urine travels down tubes called the ureters. The ureters empty into the bladder where urine is stored. During urination, the bladder contracts to empty and the muscle that holds Vesicoureteral Reflux
View Large
Vesicoureteral Reflux Illustration
the urine in (urethral sphincter) relaxes. Vesicoureteral reflux (VUR) occurs when urine in the bladder flows back into one or both ureters and often back into the kidneys. This may occur because of the position of the ureter in the bladder wall. VUR is graded according to severity from grade 1 (mild) to grade 5 (severe).

How is vesicoureteral reflux diagnosed?

Voiding cystourethrogram (VCUG) is used to confirm the diagnosis of VUR. During a VCUG a thin plastic tube, called a catheter, is inserted into the urethra (opening where urine comes out). The bladder is filled with a solution called contrast. While the bladder is being filled, X-ray pictures are taken to see if any of the contrast is traveling up the ureters. Children are asked to urinate once the bladder is full to see if any reflux occurs during the voiding phase. The VCUG takes 15-20 minutes.

Our Child Life Specialists will work with your child to decrease the stress and anxiety associated with the procedure. They achieve these goals through the use of play, education, preparation and self-expression.

Who gets vesicoureteral reflux?

What are the risks of vesicoureteral reflux?

VUR does not cause a urinary tract infection. VUR allows bacteria that may be in the bladder to travel with the refluxing urine to the kidney. This can then cause a kidney infection.

In some children, once they have a kidney infection, “scarring” to the kidney can occur. Kidney scarring may cause high blood pressure. If both kidneys are scarred, kidney function may decrease. Pregnant women who have had significant kidney damage have an increased risk of complications.

Our approach to treating vesicoureteral reflux

Each year, we evaluate and treat nearly 800 children with VUR. Our goal is to prevent kidney damage and kidney infections.

Lower grades of reflux will often resolve on their own, typically between 5-6 years of age. The goal is to prevent UTIs and kidney damage while the reflux is improving.

Surgical options

Many factors should be considered when deciding about what treatment is best for your child: the severity of the reflux, whether the reflux is in one or both ureters, your child’s age and gender and the presence of kidney damage. We will thoroughly discuss all options with you and your child.

Reviewed by: Division of Urology
Date: May 2011

  • Print
  • Share

Contact the Division of Urology