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Treatments for Urinary Retention

With acute UR, your doctor’s first concern will be to relieve your pain by draining the urine from your bladder. He may do this by inserting a catheter into the urethra. In some cases the catheter may be inserted through your abdomen and into the bladder. In this case, he may use local or general anesthesia to prevent pain. When BPH is the cause, he may also prescribe medicine to prevent future UR episodes. 5,9

With both acute and chronic UR, your doctor will ask you questions about your medical history, give you a physical examination, and may perform tests to determine what’s causing your urinary retention. 5,9

There are a number of treatment options. This includes:

Bladder Drainage
If your UR is chronic, your doctor may prescribe clean intermittent catheterization (or CIC for short). CIC is where you insert a catheter yourself several times a day to empty your bladder. A condition known as neurogenic bladder (which is caused by nerve problems) can cause chronic UR. If you have neurogenic bladder, your doctor may recommend CIC or long-term catheter use if other treatments do not work. 5,9

Urethral Dilation
If your UR is caused by a urethral stricture, your doctor may try to open the stricture by placing wider and wider tubes in the urethra to try and widen it.5

For men who have BPH, your doctor may recommend different medications that can help to shrink your prostate such as Avodart or Proscar or others that may help to relax the bladder muscles such as Uroxatral, Cardura, Cialis, Flomax and many others. 2,5,9

Surgery is an option for men with an enlarged prostate (BPH). There are a number of different procedures. Some can be done in your doctor’s office and others require hospitalization 2,5

For women, if UR is caused by cystocele or rectocele, you may need surgery to lift the fallen bladder or rectum into its normal position. There are a number of ways your doctor may make this repair and your doctor will recommend the best procedure for you based on your conditions.5,8

The key is if you are having any of these symptoms, contact your doctor. They will be able to determine what the primary cause of your problem is and provide the most appropriate treatment. Remember, there is always the risk of complications with any treatment. This can include urinary tract infections, bladder and or kidney damage, and urinary incontinence.

Your doctor will present you with the options that are available to treat your specific condition and explain the risks and benefits of the procedures that may best serve your needs.

Places You Can Find More Information

About Urinary Retention - National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NKUDIC)
The Urinary System and How it Works - the Urology Foundation
• Imaging of the Urinary Tract - National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NKUDIC)

Please note that this information provided by BARD Medical is not intended to be used in place of a visit, consultation, or advice of a medical professional. Information is as of 12/2014.  Please check references for updated information.


  1. Urology Care Foundation – Neurogenic Bladder Symptoms, Updated May 2014
  2. Kirby R.S. Prostate Disease and their Treatments, Health Press Oxford 2010
  3. Diseases and Conditions; Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH), Updated 12/2001
  4. Lepo H, Managing and Preventing Acute Urinary Retention, Urol. 2005; 7 (Suppl 8) S26-S33
  5. National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NKUDIC) Urinary Retention Updated 8/2014
  6. R Appell MD, Voiding Dysfunction – Diagnosis and Treatment, Humana Press Inc. New Jersey 2000
  7. A Wein MD, Campbell-Walsh Urology, Elsevier Saunders, Philadelphia PA, 2012
  8. A Slack, D Newman, A Wein MD, Fast Facts: Bladder Disorders, Oxford Press Ltd., Oxford UK, 2011
  9. B Selius DO, R Subedi MD, Urinary Retention in Adults: Diagnosis and Management, American Family Physician, Volume 77 Number 3, 2008