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Neurogenic Bladder

Neurogenic Bladder

Alternate Names

  • neurogenic incontinence
  • neuromuscular dysfunction of the lower urinary tract
  • neurologic bladder dysfunction
  • neuropathic bladder
  • Urinary bladder and urethra


Neurogenic bladder is the loss of normal bladder function caused by damage to part of the nervous system.

What is going on in the body?


What are the causes and risks of the condition?

Bladder dysfunction can result from damage to nerves in the pelvis or low back, to the spinal cord, or to the brain. The causes are many and include:
  • trauma from an accident or following a surgery
  • stroke
  • tumor
  • infection
  • inflammation
  • neurological conditions such as:
    • multiple sclerosis
    • peripheral neuropathy
    • Alzheimer's disease or any form of dementia
    • Parkinson's disease
    • hydrocephalus


What can be done to prevent the condition?

There is no way to prevent this condition.


How is the condition diagnosed?

A complete history and physical exam and a detailed neurologic exam may be needed to pinpoint the exact nervous system injury. Other tests show the function of the lower urinary tract and help to guide treatment. These include a cystogram, which means putting contrast material into the bladder for X-rays. Urodynamics tests measure the pressure on the bladder and urethra. In cystoscopy, the urethra and bladder are examined with a small telescope.

Long Term Effects

What are the long-term effects of the condition?

A bladder wall that does not relax or that contracts too often can lead to high bladder pressure. The pressure can back up into the kidneys and damage them. If the problem is the urinary sphincter, there is no risk of kidney damage. The incontinence itself may make urinary tract infections and hygiene problems more likely. Skin irritation and odor are likely to occur.

Other Risks

What are the risks to others?

There are no risks to others.


What are the treatments for the condition?

The goals of treatment are to control infection, and prevent incontinence. This can be accomplished by regular evacuation of the urine from the bladder, medications, or surgery. Evacuations of urine from the bladder include Crede's method, and intermittent self-catheterization.
Crede's method involves applying manual pressure with the use of the hand over the lower abdomen. This promotes complete emptying of the bladder. Intermittent self-catheterization involves the insertion of a rubber tube into the bladder on a set schedule to empty the bladder. A person can be trained to do this him- or herself.
A male can use a condom catheter. A condom catheter looks like an ordinary condom that attaches at the end to a short tube leading into a drainage bag. The drainage bag catches the urine. The bag attaches to the leg or stomach and can be worn underneath clothing.
Another option for drainage is a urinary catheter, a thin rubber tube that is inserted into the bladder and left in place. If the bladder problem is not too severe, a medication called oxybutynin (i.e., Ditropan) may be taken to relax the bladder. If the bladder wall relaxes enough, and the person purposely urinates often, the incontinence may be prevented.
Medications do not usually work for problems with the urinary sphincter. Surgery to repair the sphincter may be needed. Surgery is also used for bladder problems if they do not do not respond to medications. The urine is diverted to an outside opening made in the abdomen called an ostomy. This is accomplished by removing a short segment of the small intestines. The ureters are connected to this segment of small intestines. This is then attached to the opening in the abdomen. The urine is then collected in a bag that is applied to the abdomen.

Side Effects

What are the side effects of the treatments?

Medications to relax the bladder may cause dry mouth, constipation, and drowsiness. The use of a urinary catheter carries an increased risk of infection.
Surgery to enlarge the bladder with pieces of intestine can have the usual side effects of major intestinal surgery. These include a long time on a special diet, and some pain after surgery. Infection, bleeding, and rupture of the bladder are also possible.

After Treatment

What happens after treatment for the condition?

The person should be encouraged to drink plenty of fluids. This will help prevent urinary tract infections, bladder stones, and kidney stones. If surgery was performed, teaching will need to be done on the care of the ostomy.


How is the condition monitored?

A person with neurogenic incontinence needs to be watched to make sure the kidneys are not affected. This is done with kidney function blood tests, urine tests, and x-rays of the kidneys.


The Merck Manual of Medical Information, Home edition, 1997

Professional Guide to Diseases, Sixth Edition. Springhouse: Springhouse Corporation, 1998

Tierney, Lawrence, editor, "Current Medical Diagnosis and Treatment, 39th edition", 2000

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