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What to Expect When You See a Doctor

Your doctor will try to diagnose your problem with a physical exam and by measuring how much urine is left in your bladder after you urinate.5,9

The physical exam includes the doctor finding out more about your symptoms and examining your lower abdomen. He or she may tap on your belly to see how full your bladder is. An ultrasound machine (which uses sound waves to create a picture) is sometimes used to measure the amount of urine remaining after you urinate. A catheter may also be used. It is a thin, flexible tube the doctor inserts through the urethra into the bladder. It drains any remaining urine. If 100 milliliters or more remains, it tells the doctor your bladder is not emptying completely.5,9

To find out what may be causing your urinary retention, your doctor may use an instrument called a cystoscope to see if anything is blocking the urinary tract like urethral stricture or bladder stones. He or she may also use a CT scan. This device uses a combination of x-ray and computer technology to create a picture of your lower abdomen. It helps your doctor determine if a urinary tract infection, urinary tract stones, tumor, cyst or injury could be causing your urinary retention.5,9

A technique called electromyography provides more information for your doctor. It measures the electrical activity of the muscle and nerves in and around the bladder and sphincters. This helps your doctor understand if the messages sent to the bladder and sphincters coordinate correctly.5,9

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