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 provides 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, or diabetes. If test results are abnormal, other tests may be needed before a definite diagnosis can be made.

Preparation

No preparation other than cleansing the area around the urethra (urinary opening) is required for the automated dipstick urinalysis.

The Procedure

Your child will be asked to urinate 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 small soft plastic tube (catheter) may need to be inserted 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 specimen. 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 are usually available within an hour, and your doctor will review them with you. If abnormalities are found, further urine tests may be needed.

Risks

No risks are associated with taking an automated dipstick urinalysis.

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.

Reviewed by: Kate M. Cronan, MD
Date reviewed: March 2009

Related Resources

  • National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
    This group conducts and supports research on many serious diseases affecting public health.
  • National Kidney Foundation (NKF)
    NKF seeks to prevent kidney and urinary tract diseases, improve the health and well-being of individuals and families affected by these diseases, and increase the availability of all organs for transplantation.
  • American Medical Association (AMA)
    The AMA has made a commitment to medicine by making doctors more accessible to their patients. Contact the AMA at: American Medical Association 515 N. State St. Chicago, IL 60610 (312) 464-5000
  • American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)
    The AAP is committed to the health and well-being of infants, adolescents, and young adults. The website offers news articles and tips on health for families.
  • American Diabetes Association (ADA)
    The ADA website includes news, information, tips, and recipes for people with diabetes.
  • National Diabetes Education Program (NDEP)
    NDEP is a partnership of the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and more than 200 public and private organizations. Its mission is to improve the treatment and outcomes for people with diabetes, to promote early diagnosis, and to prevent the onset of diabetes.