Why have a kidney, bladder and prostate scan?

If you've been having particular urinary tract symptoms or blood or urine tests which suggest a problem with your bladder, kidneys, ureters, or prostate gland, your doctor may have suggested you have an ultrasound scan to investigate.

Symptoms your doctor may want to check out include: blood in your urine, pain when passing urine, increased urinary frequency, pain in the abdomen, (just below the rib cage and above the pelvis) and incomplete emptying of your bladder.

A scan will check for any anomalies that could indicate one of the following conditions, and provide images and a detailed diagnostic report to show your healthcare provider.

Facts about your urinary tract

The urinary tract is the medical name for all the organs, muscles and tubes that produce, store and dispose of urine. This includes:

  • Kidneys
    These filter waste and remove water from your blood at a rate of 3oz of blood per minute. They are located below the rib cage towards the back.

  • Ureters
    These are tubes which transport urine from the kidney to the bladder

  • Bladder
    This is a balloon shaped muscle, which stores urine.

  • Urethra
    This is a tube, which carries urine out of the body.

Your prostate gland

Your prostate gland is a walnut-shaped gland that produces chemicals needed to nourish sperm. It is not part of the urinary tract, but it may cause urinary symptoms because the urethra runs through it.

Prostate problems affect one in three men during their lifetime, with 10% requiring surgery. These include:

Kidney conditions and symptoms

Ultrasound scans are useful for getting a clear picture of the size, shape and condition of your kidneys and ureters and may help diagnose some of the following conditions.

  • Kidney stones
    These are small stone-like lumps, which form in the kidneys from crystallised waste products. Sometimes they pass out of the body painlessly in urine but larger kidney stones may block the ureters and urethra tubes causing excruciating pain in the back or side of your abdomen and sometimes your groin. Other symptoms include needing to urinate more frequently, pain passing urine, nausea and sometimes blood in the urine. Around 0.5% of the population seek medical help for acute pain due to kidney stones. Kidney stones are more common in men than women. Small stones may be dissolved with medication, but larger stones usually need breaking up with ultrasound or x-ray.

  • Kidney infections
    Causes can include a kidney stone blocking the ureter tubes. Bacteria can also travel from your bladder to your kidneys. Symptoms include pain in the back or side, feeling sick and feverish. They are relatively rare, affecting around one in 830 people and more common in women than men. Men who experience recurrent bouts of urinary tract infections can also develop prostatitis (swelling of the prostate gland). They are treated with antibiotics and painkillers.

  • Kidney cancer
    There are 10,144 new cases of kidney cancer in the UK every year and 50% of patients survive for 10 years or more. The most common symptom is blood in the urine. Other symptoms include: tiredness and fatigue, a pain in the side below the ribs, high temperature and excessive sweating, loss of appetite and weight loss.  Either the tumour or the whole kidney can be removed. Other options include radio wave treatment, cry therapy, radiotherapy and biologic drugs.

Bladder conditions and symptoms

  • Bladder and urethra infections
    These infections are sometimes referred to as lower urinary tract infections or UTIs. They are much more common in women than men; only around 1 in 2,000 men will develop one each year. An infection of the bladder is called cystitis and an infection of the urethra is called urethritis. Symptoms include pain or burning sensation when passing urine, needing to pass urine more often, pain in the lower abdomen. UTI infections can be treated with a course of antibiotics.

  • Bladder cancer
    This is four times more common in men than women and around 10,000 people are diagnosed in the UK every year. The most common symptom is blood in the urine. Other symptoms include needing to urinate more, sudden urge to pass urine and a burning sensation when passing urine. Treatments include transurethral resection of a bladder tumour, bladder removal and creation of a new bladder using a section of the bowel, plus radiotherapy and chemotherapy.

  • Bladder stones
    These stones irritate the wall of the bladder, affect urine flow and cause infections. Symptoms include severe pain and blood in the urine. They can be removed using a telescope and stone crushing devices.

Bladder, Kidneys and Prostate Scans

A private Bladder, Kidneys and Prostate Scan will take a detailed scan to look at the size, shape and condition of the bladder when full and immediately after emptying, both kidneys and ureters and the prostate gland where visible. It can exclude the effects of UTIs, look for causes of persistent bladder problems including prostrate enlargement and look for obstructions due to stones in the bladder.

Booking a private scan can help you skip potentially long NHS waiting times to help you reach a diagnosis more quickly.