Neurogenic Bladder

January 16, 2018
The muscles and nerves of the urinary system work together to hold and release urine at the right time. Nerves carry messages between the bladder and the spinal cord and brain. The messages tell the muscles of the bladder to either tighten or release. In neurogenic bladder, these nerves don’t work the way they should.

These are some possible causes of neurogenic bladder:

  • Diabetes
  • Infections
  • Accidents that cause injury to the brain or spinal cord
  • Genetic nerve problems
  • Heavy metal poisoning
  • Birth defects that effect the spinal cord
  • Brain or spinal cord tumors

These are the most common symptoms of neurogenic bladder:

  • Urinary tract infection (UTI)
  • Kidney stones
  • Urinary incontinence (unable to control urine)
  • Small urine volume during voiding
  • Urinary frequency and urgency
  • Dribbling urine
  • Loss of feeling that the bladder is full

The symptoms of neurogenic bladder may look like other conditions. Always talk with a healthcare provider for a diagnosis.

If your healthcare provider thinks you may have neurogenic bladder, he or she will want to check you’re your brain, spinal cord, and bladder. He or she will review your health history and do a physical exam. Other tests may include:

  • X-rays of the skull and spine. This imaging test uses invisible energy beams to make images of tissues, bones, and organs.
  • Imaging tests of the bladder and ureters
  • Ultrasound (also called sonography). This imaging test uses high-frequency sound waves to create images of the organs on a computer screen.
  • Cystoscopy. Your healthcare provider puts a thin, flexible tube and viewing device in through the urethra to examine the urinary tract. It checks for structure changes or blockages, such as tumors or stones.
  • Tests that involve filling the bladder, such as urodynamics. These tests show how much the bladder can hold and check to see if it fully empties.

Treatment for neurogenic bladder depends on the cause. It is aimed at preventing kidney damage and may include:

  • Medicines
  • Emptying the bladder with a catheter at regular times
  • Preventive antibiotics to reduce infection
  • Placing an artificial cuff around the neck of the bladder which can be inflated to hold urine and deflated to release it
  • Surgery to remove stones or blockages
  • Botox injections into the bladder muscle
  • Placement of an electrical device to stimulate or slow down bladder activity

The following are often linked to a neurogenic bladder:

  • Urine leakage often happens when the muscles holding urine in do not get the right message.
  • Urine retention happens if the muscles holding urine in do not get the message that it is time to pass urine.
  • Damage to the tiny blood vessels in the kidney may happen if the bladder becomes too full and urine backs up into the kidneys. This causes extra pressure and may lead to blood in the urine.
  • Infection of the bladder, ureters, or kidneys often results from urine that is held too long before it’s passed out of the body.
  • In neurogenic bladder, the nerves that carry messages back-and-forth between the bladder and the spinal cord and brain don’t work the way they should.
  • Damage or changes in the nervous system and infection can cause neurogenic bladder.
  • Treatment is aimed at preventing kidney damage. It may include medicine, urinary catheters, antibiotics to reduce the chance of infection, and, in severe cases, surgery.
  • Some complications of include urine leakage, inability to pass urine, kidney damage, and kidney or urinary tract infections.
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your healthcare provider:

  • Know the reason for your visit and what you want to happen.
  • Before your visit, write down questions you want answered.
  • Bring someone with you to help you ask questions and remember what your provider tells you.
  • At the visit, write down the name of a new diagnosis, and any new medicines, treatments, or tests. Also write down any new instructions your provider gives you.
  • Know why a new medicine or treatment is prescribed, and how it will help you. Also know what the side effects are.
  • Ask if your condition can be treated in other ways.
  • Know why a test or procedure is recommended and what the results could mean.
  • Know what to expect if you do not take the medicine or have the test or procedure.
  • If you have a follow-up appointment, write down the date, time, and purpose for that visit.
  • Know how you can contact your provider if you have questions.


January 16, 2018


Urinary tract complications of myelomeningocele (spina bifida). UpToDate

Reviewed By:  

Greenstein, Marc, DO,Finke, Amy, RN, BSN