The nerves and muscles of the urinary system work together to hold and release urine at the right time. Ordinarily, the nerves carry messages between the bladder and the spinal cord and brain telling the muscles in the bladder to tighten or release. However, in someone suffering from a neurogenic bladder, these nerves and muscles do not communicate and work together the way they should–causing issues with the storage and release of urine from the body.
When a neurological condition affects the way someone’s bladder functions, it is referred to as a “neurogenic bladder.” These “neurological conditions” can be injuries or diseases in the brain, spinal cord, nerves, or other areas of the nervous system which ultimately affect the relationship between the nervous system and the bladder. The term neurogenic bladder can refer to several different urinary conditions, but–depending on the nerves involved and nature of the damage–it usually refers to one of two major types of bladder control problems: (1) overactive bladder (spastic or hyper-reflexive), or (2) underactive bladder (flaccid or hypotonic).
The most common symptom of neurogenic bladder is inability to control urination (urinary incontinence). However, symptoms can vary and depend on a number of factors including the underlying cause of the neurogenic bladder and whether the person is suffering from an overactive or underactive bladder (or both).
Often, the first symptom of neurogenic bladder is repeated urinary tract infections (UTIs). This is true regardless of which type of bladder control issue someone may be suffering from, overactive or underactive. Other common symptoms of neurogenic bladder include:
- Urinary leakage
- Frequent urination (eight or more times per day)
- Urgency (a feeling or need to urinate immediately)
- Dribbling urine
- Small or weak urine volume when urinating
- Loss of feeling that the bladder is full
- Urinary retention or obstructive bladder (inability to empty bladder)
Neurogenic bladders can also lead to complications such as kidney stones and damage to the tiny blood vessels in the kidneys when the bladder becomes too full and urine backs up into the kidneys (which can also lead to blood in the urine due to the extra pressure). People with neurogenic bladders are at higher risk of other urological problems, repeated infections, vesicoureteral reflux, and other complications.
Neurogenic bladder is very common among people with spinal cord injuries (affecting over 90%). However, there are many potential causes of neurogenic bladder. Possible causes include:
- Spine surgeries
- Medical conditions that involve the nervous system (stroke, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, etc.)
- Brain, spinal cord, or other central nervous system tumors
- Heavy metal poisoning
- Genetic nerve problems
- Erectile dysfunction
- Accidents that cause injury to the brain or spinal cord (car accidents, slip and fall, etc.) If you believe your neurogenic bladder was caused by one of these types of accidents, you can visit our Personal Injury Claims page for more information.
Neurogenic bladder can also be congenital (present at birth). Birth defects that can cause neurogenic bladder include spina bifida, sacral agenesis, cerebral palsy, and many others. For more information on possible birth injury claims, visit our blog on Common Birth Injuries.
In some cases, the negligence of medical providers can cause a neurogenic bladder. For example, an untimely or faulty administration of a catheter following surgery can result in damage leading to a neurogenic bladder. When a medical provider’s attention and care for a patient falls below the appropriate standard, it can lead to neurological injuries causing neurogenic bladder, delays in treatment or diagnosis, and can lead to other life-altering conditions.
If a neurogenic bladder is suspected, a medical provider will typically conduct a physical examination, review the patient’s medical history, and may want to order additional tests to check the brain, spinal cord, and bladder, including:
- Urine Culture: A sample of the patient’s urine may be used to detect infection or blood in the urine.
- Cystoscopy: This test allows medical providers to examine the inside of the bladder and urinary tract by inserting a thin, flexible tube and small telescope (cystoscope) through the urethra.
- Urodynamic Testing: These studies test bladder function by measuring pressure in the bladder, the flow and speed of urination, the amount of urine the patient’s bladder is able to hold, and how well the patient’s bladder empties when it is full.
- Imaging Tests: These can include x-rays of the skull and spine, CT or MRI scans, and ultrasounds (also called sonographies) of the bladder.
There is no cure for neurogenic bladder. Treatment is aimed at preventing kidney damage and managing symptoms. This may include medication, urinary catheters, antibiotics to reduce the chance of infection, lifestyle changes, and, in severe cases, surgery.
Filing a Medical Malpractice Claim or Lawsuit
If you or a family member has a neurogenic bladder that was negligently caused, diagnosed, or treated, you may be entitled to compensation for your damages. Call Bonner Law at 1-800-4MEDMAL or visit our page for a free consultation.
Medical malpractice cases are complex and can be emotionally challenging for the patients involved. Finding the right attorney can make the process much easier. Michael P. Bonner has over 30 years of experience representing patients in medical malpractice cases all over Florida. Bonner Law has the knowledge and experience to represent you and navigate the legal and medical landscape to ensure that you receive compensation for damages, including medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering that you are entitled to. For more information on medical malpractice claims you can also visit our Medical Malpractice page.