Diagnostic Imaging for Kidney Disease

The Pediatric Radiology Department at Levine Children’s Hospital in Charlotte, NC, provides diagnostic imaging services for infants, children and adolescents. The caring and compassionate team of radiologists, technologists, registered nurses and support staff will work together to make your child as comfortable as possible during modern imaging procedures specifically tailored to the needs of children. Your child’s specific symptoms will determine the type of imaging your child’s doctor orders.

Renal Imaging and Interventional Radiology

Physicians at Levine Children’s Hospital may use various radiology procedures to evaluate possible kidney disease, including:

Abdominal computed axial tomography scan. Also known as CAT or CT scan, this painless, noninvasive test uses a specialized X-ray machine to take pictures of the organs, blood vessels and lymph nodes. An abdominal CAT scan can detect signs of inflammation, infection, injury or disease of the liver, spleen, kidneys, bladder, stomach, intestines, pancreas and adrenal glands.

Catheter angiogram. A catheter angiogram, also called a traditional angiogram, is a special kind of X-ray in which a thin, flexible tube called a catheter is threaded through the large arteries. When performed to evaluate kidney disease, it’s threaded to the renal artery. Contrast medium is injected through the catheter so the renal artery shows up more clearly on the X-ray.

Computerized tomographic angiography (CTA) scan. CTA scans use a combination of X-rays and computer technology to create 3-D images. Contrast medium is injected into a vein in the person’s arm to better see the structure of the arteries. CTA scans require the person to lie on a table that slides into a tunnel-shaped device where the X-rays are taken. CTA scans are less invasive than catheter angiograms and take less time. It’s not uncommon for the test to require more contrast medium than a catheter angiogram, so it may not be recommended for a person with poor kidney function. 

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). MRI is a safe, painless test that takes pictures of the internal organs without using X-rays or radiation. Instead, it uses a magnetic field and radio waves. During the MRI exam, radio waves manipulate the magnetic position of the body's atoms, which are picked up by a powerful antenna and sent to a computer. The computer creates clear, cross-sectional images of the body that can be converted into 3-D pictures of the scanned area. These images can help doctors determine the source of the problem.

Renal nuclear scan. A renal nuclear scan involves having special radioactive material injected into a vein. The radiation dose is less than that of a simple X-ray. The scan shows how the kidneys compare with each other in size, shape and function. It can also detect scarring or other evidence of recurrent or chronic kidney infection.

Renal ultrasound. A renal ultrasound is a safe, painless test that uses sound waves to make images of the kidneys, ureters and bladder.

Voiding cystourethrogram (VCUG). A VCUG is a type of X-ray used to examine the urinary tract, using a small amount of radiation. After the patient's bladder is filled with a liquid called contrast material, an X-ray machine sends beams of radiation through the abdomen and pelvis, and images are recorded on special film or a computer.