Urinary retention is a fairly common condition seen in urology. Urinary retention is the inability to empty the bladder. This condition can be very painful if the bladder is full and unable to empty. Many patients require catheter insertion in the clinic or emergency room until it is corrected or resolves spontaneously. This condition can occur in both men and women although it is more common in men.
There are a variety of reasons for urinary retention. The most common etiology is seen in middle-aged and elderly men due to prostate enlargement. Urethral scarring called urethral strictures can develop in men and women causing blockage as well. If there is nerve damage to the bladder from a back injury or other neurological disorder, then bladder may not empty well. Medications such as tricyclic antidepressants or antianxiety agents can cause the bladder to relax and not function properly. The bladder can become distended and over stretch during surgery causing post operative urinary retention. Sometimes the bladder does not empty for unknown reasons which is more commonly seen in younger women.
The treatments for this problem very depending on the etiology. Sometimes the only treatment needed is the temporary use of catheters to assist with emptying the bladder allowing it time to regain compliance and rest. Some patients may require surgical correction of the offending agent to resolve their urinary retention. Other patients may require the long term use of catheters to assist with emptying their bladder.