What Is a Urethral Stricture?

A urethral stricture is a thick scar that forms along the urethra, the tube that carries urine from the bladder out of the body through the penis. The buildup of dense scar tissue causes the urethra to become narrow. A narrowed urethra makes it hard for urine to pass through and blocks or reduces normal urine flow.

Urethral strictures are rare, occurring in fewer than one percent of men. 

Urethral stricture as seen a cystoscope
Figure 1: A stricture or scar that narrows the urethra and causes blockage of urinary flow (view through a scope in the urethra passed via the penis; also called cystoscopy)

Why Choose University of Utah Health?

We pride ourselves on providing the highest quality experience to every patient at U of U Health. When you meet with our urology team you can expect:

  • World-class center for medicine and science: Our team of board-certified and fellowship-trained urology specialists are at the forefront of advances in the field of urology and treatment for urethral strictures. Their unique surgical skills provide exceptional urinary tract care for patients across Utah and the Mountain West region.
  • Academic health care environment: As a high-volume medical center, U of U Health sees more rare conditions like urethral stricture than any other center in the region. Our urological team regularly treats patients with complex strictures and those who had surgical complications at other centers.
  • Collaboration with medical and surgical subspecialties: Our urology experts work closely with other specialists like colorectal and plastic surgeons to provide seamless care and the best possible outcomes.
  • Commitment to minimally invasive procedures: When possible, our surgeons use innovative surgical techniques when performing urethroplasty to repair urethral strictures. These techniques can mean reduced pain and faster recovery time for patients.

Urethral Stricture Symptoms

Most urethral strictures aren’t diagnosed until they cause severe symptoms like painful urination. You should not wait until your pain becomes severe to see a doctor.

Other symptoms of urethral stricture include:

  • weak urine stream,
  • pain with ejaculation, and
  • repeated urinary tract infections.

If you experience any of these symptoms, see your doctor for an evaluation.

Urethral Stricture Causes

The condition usually occurs without a known cause. However, strictures can form after an injury or other trauma. Some of the most common reasons for urethral strictures are:

  • trauma from an accident, such as a pelvic fracture or injury to the perineum (the area between the scrotum and the anus);
  • severe infections of the urinary tract;
  • damage to the urethra from urinary catheter placement;
  • radiation treatment for prostate cancer;
  • scarring from urologic procedures, like surgery for kidney stones or colon cancer; or
  • previous surgery to correct hypospadias (a condition that occurs at birth when the urethra opening is not located at the tip of the penis).

Find a Reconstructive Urologist

What to Expect at Your First Appointment with a Reconstructive Urologist

The shape and length of strictures are unique to each patient. During diagnosis, your urologist will examine you for strictures and take precise measurements to determine the most effective treatment.

If we suspect you have a urethral stricture, our reconstructive urologist will perform diagnostic tests, including:

  • X-ray: This imaging test often uses injected contrast or dye to pinpoint the stricture's location and size.
  • Cystoscopy: This procedure gives a more detailed look inside your bladder and urethra. The urologist will pass a tiny scope through your penis to see the stricture inside the urethra.

Urethral Stricture Treatment

If not treated, urethral strictures can lead to serious complications like kidney failure, chronic urinary retention, or life-threatening infections. The right treatment will help you avoid these complications and improve your comfort and quality of life.

At U of U Health, we offer the latest treatments for urethral strictures in men.

Endoscopic Treatments

In some cases, we may treat small strictures with a minimally invasive outpatient procedure. Our urologist will use specialized instruments to open the stricture and widen the urethra to restore regular urine flow. However, most strictures removed this way eventually return. Your urologist will advise whether this technique is right for you. 

Urethroplasty

This gold-standard surgery successfully opens the stricture and repairs the urethra in up to 90 percent of cases. You will be under general anesthesia while your urologist repairs the urethra with healthy tissue taken from other parts of your body. Learn more about urethroplasty and what to expect.

Make an Appointment with a Reconstructive Urologist

You do not need a referral from your primary care provider to schedule an appointment with one of our reconstructive urologists. Call 801-213-2700 or use our online form to request an appointment.