The urinary system, aka the renal system, is a series of organs that consists the kidneys, ureters, bladder and urethra which works together to remove urine from the body. A urinary obstruction occurs when a blockage inhibits the flow of urine through the system, anywhere from the kidneys where urine is produced to the urethra and through which urine leaves the body.

Urinary obstruction can increase pressure inside the urinary tract and reduce the flow of urine and may occur either suddenly or develop gradually over days, weeks, or months. It may completely or partially block part of the urinary tract, affecting one both kidneys.

Causes and symptoms of urinary obstruction

Some common causes include:

  • Narrowing in the urinary tract, vesicoureteral reflux, or anatomical abnormalities in babies and children.
  • Stones in the kidney or elsewhere in the urinary tract in young adults.
  • Enlarged prostate, prostate cancer, tumours and stones among older adults. Men above 60 years old are more likely to be affected by urinary obstruction as their prostate gland may increase in size as they age.

Other possible causes of urinary tract obstruction include but not limited to:

  • Pregnancy when the enlarged womb puts pressure on the ureters
  • Polyps, blood clot and tumours in the ureter
  • Damage to the muscles/nerves in the ureter or bladder
  • Formation of fibrous (scar) tissues in or around the ureter as a result of a surgery, radiation therapy or drugs.
  • Pelvic organ prolapse

Symptoms of urinary obstruction depend on the cause, location and duration of the obstruction, but having pain in your back or your side is frequently reported. Some patients also experience the symptoms of UTIs and blood in your urine, as well as a change in urgency, frequency, hesitancy and weak urinary stream.

See your GP immediately when you experience urinary obstruction as it requires prompt treatment and management to ensure that damage to any part of the urinary tract, bladder and kidney is minimised. In most instances, your GP will refer you to a urologist.

Urinary obstruction diagnosis

Your doctors may perform the following tests to reach a diagnosis:

  • Blood and urine tests
  • Ultrasound
  • Voiding cystourethrogram
  • Renal nuclear scan
  • Cystoscopy
  • CT scan
  • MRI

Management urinary obstruction with catheters

When urinary obstruction happens, your doctor aims to remove the blockage or bypass the obstruction. They may recommend and perform:

  • A drainage procedure: this can include a ureteral stent (inserting a hollow tube inside the ureter), percutaneous nephrostomy (using a tube to drain the kidney directly), or a catheter (connecting the bladder to an external drainage bag). Using a catheter may provide temporary or permanent relief, depending on your condition.
  • A surgical procedure: this can include endoscopic surgery, open surgery or laparoscopic surgery. A surgical procedure is more common with cases of upper urinary tract obstruction.

Types of catheters used in urinary obstruction

Often, your urologist is likely to recommend an intermittent catheter before an indwelling urinary catheter, and we should explain the differences for the purposes of this article.

  • Intermittent catheter – A patient inserts a single-use catheter through the urethra into the bladder to drain the bladder.
  • Indwelling urinary catheter – A catheter is inserted into the bladder through the urethra, with an inflatable balloon end to keep the catheter in position at the bladder, while the outside end of the catheter leads to a drainage bag.
  • Suprapubic catheter – This method involves passing a tube surgically through the abdominal wall directly into the bladder without going through the urethra, and needs to be replaced every six to eight weeks.

Risks of urinary tract infect from catheter use

While catheters are invaluable for managing the bladders of urinary obstruction patients, there is a heightened risk of infection to the urinary tract with long term use. As the tube provides bacteria or fungi access to the bladder for extended periods of time, the microbes can multiply and lead to what is called a Catheter-Associated Urinary Tract Infection (CAUTI). CAUTI is one of the most common infections a person can contract in the hospital, and indwelling catheters are a major cause of CAUTI although they also occur with suprapubic catheter use.

How UroShield can help lower risks of CAUTI

With indwelling and suprapubic catheters, the risk of infection greatly diminishes their usefulness in bladder management. However, there is a non-invasive way to reduce the chance of infection.

UroShield is a compact external medical device that generates low-frequency, low-intensity ultrasound waves to prevent bacterial biofilm from forming on catheters. The action of the ultrasonic waves runs along the full length of the catheter, up into the balloon and down into the bag, both on the outside and inside surfaces of the catheter. The ultrasound gently vibrates the catheter to stop the bacteria from adhering to the catheter and forming the biofilm – preventing infections from developing.

If biofilm is present, UroShield helps to break up the protective layer surrounding the biofilm which is normally impenetrable to antibiotics, allowing it access to the bacteria and curing the infection. The vibrations also prevent catheter encrustation and blockage, caused by crystalline deposits of mineral salts in the urine. UroShield also helps to reduce catheter-associated bladder spasms and pain and is effective for any kind of catheter, both urethral and suprapubic.

Click on the link to find out more about how UroShield works. Additionally, this post on ‘Overcoming the learning curves that come with a catheter’ is also informative.

In our clinical studies, patients who used UroShield have reported great benefits including:

  • No or reduced infection rates
  • No or reduced catheter blockage
  • No or reduced catheter-related bladder spasms
  • No or reduced catheter-related pain
  • Increased quality of life
  • More energy and feeling generally better

To know more, get in touch on 020 8773 7844 or fill out our Online Form.

This post is not health advice and should not replace professional advice tailored to your specific circumstances. It is intended to provide information of general interest about current healthcare issues.