We evaluate children with incontinence on an outpatient basis. During the initial consultation, we will take a careful medical history, including questions regarding parental or sibling bedwetting, previous urinary tract problems, toilet training and daytime control.

The physical exam will include careful examination of the abdomen and genitals, and of the legs and perineum — the area between the anus and genitals — to determine sensation and adequate motor development. We also inspect the lower back for any signs of possible abnormalities of the spinal cord.

In addition, some children will need one or more of the following tests:

  • Urinalysis — This test allows us to analyze your child's urine for early signs of conditions such as urinary tract infections.
  • Urine culture — If we suspect your child has a urinary tract infection, the urine collected for the urinalysis will be cultured (grown in a lab) over two days to determine what organism is causing the infection.
  • X-rays — X-rays of the kidneys, bladder and ureters, the tubes that drain urine from the kidneys into the bladder, can reveal kidney stones, stool retention and tumors. To a limited extent, they can also help us evaluate any abnormalities of the spine. X-rays are painless but your child will need to hold still while the picture is taken.
  • Ultrasound — Ultrasound of the kidneys, bladder and ureters can detect birth defects, obstruction, stones and other problems of the urinary tract. Ultrasounds involve no radiation and are painless.
  • Voiding cystourethogram (VCUG) — A VCUG is an X-ray of the bladder and ureters using a contrast liquid dye that shows up on the X-ray. The X-rays are taken while the bladder is filled with the contrast liquid, via a catheter, and while the child urinates. We often use VCUG to evaluate a child after a urinary tract infection. It can also be used to diagnose vesicoureteral reflux and to provide anatomical information on the bladder, the bladder neck, ureters and urethra (the hole where urine flows out of the body).
  • Nuclear cystogram — This test is similar to the VCUG but uses much less radiation. However, it outlines the anatomy less clearly, so it's used only for any necessary follow-up tests after an initial VCUG.

Reviewed by health care specialists at UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital.

Related Information

UCSF Clinics & Centers


Continence Clinic
1825 Fourth St., Fifth Floor, 5B
San Francisco, CA 94158
Phone: (415) 353-2200
Fax: (415) 353-2480
Appointment information

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