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Urine Test: Microscopic Urinalysis

What It Is

Microscopic urinalysis is often done as part of an overall urinalysis. After a urine (pee) sample is collected, it's put into a centrifuge — a special machine that separates the liquid in the urine from any solid components that may be present, such as blood cells, mineral crystals, or microorganisms. Any solid materials are then viewed under a microscope.

Why It's Done

The results of a microscopic urinalysis may point to a urinary tract infection (UTI), kidney problems, a metabolic disorder such as diabetes, or a urinary tract injury. If test results are abnormal, other tests may be needed before a definite diagnosis can be made.

Preparation

Cleansing the area around the urinary opening is required for the microscopic urinalysis. Your child might need to temporarily stop taking certain medications that could interfere with test results.

The Procedure

Your child will be asked to urinate into a clean sample cup in the doctor's office, in the hospital, or at home. If your child isn't potty trained and can't urinate into a cup, a catheter (a narrow soft plastic tube) may need to be inserted into the bladder to obtain the urine specimen.

The skin surrounding the urinary opening has to be cleansed just before the urine is collected. In this "clean-catch" method, you or your child cleanses the skin around the urinary opening with a special towelette (this might need to be done more than once). Your child then urinates, stops momentarily, and then urinates again into the collection container. Catching the urine in "midstream" is the goal. Be sure to wash your hands and your child's hands before and after this process. Collecting the specimen should only take a few minutes.

Occasionally, if the doctor is concerned about a urinary problem that isn't due to an infection, a urine collection bag with adhesive tape on one end might be used to collect a sample from an infant. If you're doing the collection at home, you'll clean your baby's genital area and then arrange the bag around the urinary opening. Once the bag is in place, you'll secure it with the attached tape. You can put a diaper on your baby after you've attached the bag. You'll be instructed on how to remove the bag once your baby has urinated into it, usually within an hour.

If you obtain the specimen at home, follow any storage and transportation instructions the lab gives you.

What to Expect

Because the test involves normal urination, there shouldn't be any discomfort as long as your child can provide a urine specimen.

Getting the Results

The time it takes to get the results of the microscopic urinalysis can vary, and your doctor will review them with you. If abnormalities are found, further tests may be needed.

Risks

No risks are associated with collecting a midstream urine specimen for microscopic urinalysis. If a catheter is used to obtain the urine, it may cause temporary discomfort.

Helping Your Child

The routine microscopic urinalysis is painless. Explaining in simple terms how the test will be conducted and why it's being done can help ease any fear. If your doctor needs a clean-catch sample, make sure your child understands that the urinary opening must be clean and the urine must be collected midstream.

If You Have Questions

If you have questions about the microscopic urinalysis, speak with your doctor.

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