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If your healthcare provider suspects a urinary tract infection, he or she will make a diagnosis based on a review of your medical history, a physical exam, and a urine test. The urine is examined for red and white blood cells as well as bacteria. Other tests that may be used to make a diagnosis include ultrasounds, intravenous pyelograms, and cystoscopies.

An Introduction to Diagnosing Urinary Tract Infections

In order to make a urinary tract infection diagnosis, your doctor will ask you a number of questions, review your medical history, perform a physical exam, test a sample of urine, and order other tests or procedures.

Urine Sample

To diagnose a urinary tract infection (UTI), your doctor will test a sample of urine for pus and bacteria. You will be asked to give a "clean catch" urine sample by washing the genital area and collecting a "midstream" sample of urine in a sterile container. This method of collecting urine will help prevent bacteria around the genital area from getting into the sample and affecting the test results.
The urine will also be examined for white and red blood cells and bacteria. The bacteria will be allowed to grow in a culture so that it can be tested against different antibiotics to see which drug best destroys the bacteria. This last step is called a sensitivity test.

Additional Tests and Procedures

When an infection does not clear up with urinary tract infection treatment, doctors may order tests to determine if your system is normal. These tests may include:
  • An intravenous pyelogram
  • An ultrasound
  • A cystoscopy.
Intravenous Pyelogram
An intravenous pyelogram is an x-ray image of the bladder, kidneys, and ureters. Doctors will inject an opaque dye, which is visible on x-ray film, into a vein and then take a series of x-rays. The film will show an outline of the urinary tract and reveal even the small changes in the structure of the tract.
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Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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