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Neurogenic Bladder

Most survivors of childhood cancer do not experience problems with their urinary bladder as a result of their treatment. But certain types of cancer and cancer treatments can damage the bladder. One condition that can result is neurogenic bladder.

A neurogenic bladder is an abnormal function of the bladder caused by damage to the nerves that control the bladder’s function. It can cause the bladder to be underactive (not emptying completely) or overactive (emptying too frequently or quickly). People with neurogenic bladders also have a higher risk of urinary tract infections (UTIs) and kidney damage.

How the Bladder Functions

The urinary bladder is an organ that stores urine. The kidneys filter the blood and make urine. It enters the bladder through 2 tubes called ureters. The urine leaves the bladder through the urethra.

Risk Factors for Neurogenic Bladder

  • People who have had tumors involving the bladder, prostate, pelvis, or spine are at risk.
  • People who have had surgery or radiation in these areas may also be at risk.

Signs and Symptoms of Neurogenic Bladder

  • Sudden urge to urinate
  • Need to urinate frequently
  • Dribbling during urination
  • Straining to urinate
  • Inability to urinate

Diagnosis of Neurogenic Bladder

If neurogenic bladder is suspected, survivors should have an evaluation by a urologist. A urologist is a physician who specializes in disorders of the urinary tract. The urologist will order tests to determine how well the bladder can store and empty urine. These tests include a voiding cystourethrogram (VCUG) or bladder cystometry (a test that measures the pressure inside of the bladder to see how well the bladder is working).

Treatment for Neurogenic Bladder

Treatment depends on the person’s medical needs.

  • Medications may be useful for an overactive bladder or for a bladder that does not store urine properly.
  • Surgery to enlarge the size of the bladder may be necessary if medications do not work.
  • A catheter might be necessary if the patient can’t completely empty the bladder. Catheterization can prevent pressure from building up in the bladder that interferes with the flow of urine from the ureters and kidneys.

Call your health care provider if:

  • Awakened more than usual during the night to urinate
  • Leakage of urine occurs
  • Fever or pain is present
  • Blood is in urine

Reviewed: June 2018