Urine Test: Automated Dipstick Urinalysis
What It Is
An automated dipstick urinalysis is often done as part of an overall urinalysis, but it can also be done on its own, depending on the doctor's concerns.
Once a urine sample is collected, a nurse or technician will place a specially treated chemical strip (dipstick) into it. Patches on the dipstick will change color to indicate the presence of such things as white blood cells, protein, or glucose.
The dipstick is then placed into a machine that uses beams of light to analyze the color changes. A machine reading can provide more detailed information than a manual reading.
Why It's Done
The results of an automated dipstick urinalysis may point to diagnoses such as a urinary tract infection (UTI) or injury, kidney disease, urinary tract trauma, or diabetes. If test results show there might be a problem, other tests may be needed before a definite diagnosis can be made.
No preparation other than cleansing the area around the urethra (urinary opening) is required for the automated dipstick urinalysis.
Your child will be asked to urinate (pee) into a clean sample cup in the doctor's office, lab, or hospital.
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. The 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 afterwards.
If your child isn't potty trained and can't urinate into a cup, a doctor or nurse may need to insert a small soft plastic tube (catheter) into the bladder to obtain the urine specimen.
The technician or nurse then will place a dipstick into the urine sample and put the dipstick into an automated reader.
Collecting the urine should only take a few minutes. If your daughter is having her period at the time of the test, let the doctor know.
What to Expect
Because the test involves normal urination, there shouldn't be any discomfort as long as your child can provide a urine sample. It's important to keep the area around the urinary opening clean before the test and to catch the urine sample midstream.
Getting the Results
The results of the automated dipstick urinalysis usually do not take long, and your doctor will review them with you. If problems are found, more urine tests may be needed.
No risks are associated with taking an automated dipstick urinalysis. If a catheter is used to obtain the urine, it may cause temporary discomfort. If you have any questions or concerns about this procedure, talk to your doctor.
Helping Your Child
The automated dipstick urinalysis is painless. Explaining how the test will be conducted and why it's being done can help ease any fear. 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 automated dipstick urinalysis, speak with your doctor.
- Kidney Diseases in Childhood
- Recurrent Urinary Tract Infections and Related Conditions
- Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)
- Kidneys and Urinary Tract
- Urine Tests
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
© 1995- KidsHealth® All rights reserved.
Images provided by The Nemours Foundation, iStock, Getty Images, Veer, Shutterstock, and Clipart.com.