What Causes Neurogenic Bladder?

The causes of neurogenic bladder include the following:

  • Spinal cord injury
  • Neurologic diseases: Multiple sclerosis, transverse myelitis, cerebral palsy, diabetes, peripheral neuropathy, spina bifida, head injury, vertebral disk herniation, stroke

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Diagnosing Neurogenic Bladder

One of the most helpful tests in the evaluation of neurogenic bladder is called a urodynamic test. Urodynamic testing is also called a cystometrogram (CMG). In this test a very small catheter is passed into the bladder and another catheter is placed into the rectum. The bladder is filled and several measures of the bladder and sphincter function can be determined. These measures can include the cause of incontinence, the capacity of the bladder, as well as the pressures in the bladder during bladder contraction and filling of the bladder.

This test allows the urologist to recommend a multitude of treatments depending upon factors like the cause of incontinence and the capacity of the bladder. It also allows the identification of patients with dangerous pressures within their bladder that might lead to progressive damage to the kidneys and kidney failure.

Treatments for Neurogenic Bladder

Medical therapy

Often the first line therapy for patients that have urgency, frequency, and leakage from neurogenic bladder is the use of several medicines known as anti-cholinergic medicines. These medicines act to relax the bladder and decrease leakage and urgency of urination from bladder spasms or overactivity. Anti-cholinergic medicines are notorious for causing side effects and often patients need to be changed from one medicine to another to find one that is tolerated well. Treatment with anti-cholinergic medicines may be all that is required for patients that do not have severely contracted bladders with high pressures.

Botulinum toxin injection

Botulinum toxin is a drug that is used to paralyze the bladder muscle. This drug has been used in many applications and recently has been used for overactive bladder and neurogenic bladders. The medicine is injected into the muscle of the bladder in a scope procedure done in clinic. The medicine acts to decrease the activity of the bladder muscle and may act to decrease the amount of leakage from bladder spasms and eliminate dangerous pressures in the bladder. Unfortunately, the medicine only lasts between six and eight months and then must be injected again into the bladder. One side effect is when the bladder muscle becomes completely paralyzed and will not contract effectively. This is temporary, because the medicine only lasts between six to eight months, however, during this time frame patients may need to catheterize in order to drain the bladder. For this reason this approach is best used when patients are familiar with self-catheterization.

Bladder augmentation

When the bladder is severely contracted and has pressures that may lead to kidney failure, surgery to expand the bladder volume is often the best method of treatment. This surgery is known as bladder augmentation or enterocystoplasty. In this surgery, a patch of bowel is brought down to the bladder and used to dramatically increase the volume of the bladder. This eliminates problems with bladder spasms and urinary incontinence as well as creating a large capacity low-pressure reservoir for urine. Patients need to perform intermittent catheterization to drain these bladders via the urethra. If patients are unable to catheterize the urethra due to scarring, pain or difficulty in localizing the urethra than a small caliber tube of bowel can be created for catheterization that comes out to the belly button or the lower abdomen. This bowel tube is called a Monti tube or a Mitrofanof tube. This is an unobtrusive stoma that does require a stoma bag or any external appliance. Usually this tube is created at the time of bladder augmentation. Patients catheterize this small stoma to drain the bladder four to six times per day. The bladder capacity after augmentation is usually about 500 ml.

Urinary diversion

In some cases the bladder cannot be salvaged with augmentation surgery. Some bladders are so contracted that augmentation of their volume is not practical. Also other patients may have problems like fistula out of the bladder, tumors in the bladder or radiation damage that is so severe that the bladder is not suitable to be used for reconstruction. In these cases the bladder needs to be bypassed and patients need to undergo. There are many types of urinary diversion that range from creation of a new bladder out of a sphere of bowel to creation of a simple conduit to conduct urine from the kidneys to a bowel stoma at the skin.