Neurogenic bladder

Neurogenic bladder (also called neuropathic bladder) occurs when the muscles and nerves of the urinary system do not work together properly to hold urine in the bladder.

Normally, nerves carry messages along the spinal cord between the brain and the muscles of the bladder and sphincter. These nerve messages tell the bladder and sphincter when to tighten and when to release.

In a child with neurogenic bladder dysfunction, the nerves that are supposed to carry these messages do not work properly, essentially paralyzing the bladder and/or the sphincter.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of neurogenic bladder may include urinary incontinence (enuresis) urinary retention, urinary tract infections, kidney stones, or pressure or infection in the kidneys. Having a neurogenic bladder means that your child may not be able to feel bladder fullness or the pain associated with possible kidney stones.

What is the cause of a neurogenic bladder?

Some common causes of neurogenic bladder include:

  • Spina bifida (a spinal cord defect that occurs during fetal development)
  • Another birth defect involving the spinal cord
  • Trauma to the spinal cord through accident or injury
  • Tumors in the central nervous system or pelvic area

How is it treated?

To diagnose a neurogenic bladder, your child’s doctor may perform a urine test or a urodynamic study. A urodynamic study involves filling your child’s bladder with saline to measure bladder volume, pressure, and contraction.

Treatment for neurogenic bladder depends on your child’s individual needs, but may include:

  • Insertion of a catheter (a tube which empties the bladder at regular intervals)
  • Insertion of an artificial sphincter (a band around the neck of the bladder which is inflated to prevent urinary incontinence and deflated to empty the bladder)
  • Surgery to enlarge a small bladder or increase the bladder outlet resistance
  • The use of antibiotics to prevent or reduce infection

About surgery for a neurogenic bladder at Children’s

The pediatric urology surgery team at Children’s provides next-generation care to neonatal infants, newborns, children, and adolescents from throughout the Upper Midwest. The team consistently performs some of the most cutting-edge surgical procedures available, including newborn surgery, minimally invasive surgery, and robotic surgery, when appropriate. Urologic surgery is performed at Children’s – Minneapolis, Children’s – St. Paul and Children’s – Minnetonka.

  • If you are a family member looking for a Children’s specialist in urology surgery, please call the Center for Pediatric Urology at 1-800-992-6983.
  • If you are a health professional looking for a consultation or referral information, please call Children’s Physician Access at 1-866-755-2121 (toll-free).