Urinary incontinence is a condition commonly found in both male and female older adults. Symptoms include an inability to control urination, urinary stress incontinence (urine leakage when coughing, sneezing, or laughing; urinary leakage even with no urge to urinate; frequent urination; and the inability to empty the bladder completely.
One diagnostic method used to determine the exact cause of urinary disorders is called an urodynamic study.
What is an Urodynamic Study?
An urodynamic study is an examination and assessment of a patient’s bladder muscles and the sphincter to determine whether or not they are functioning and contracting correctly. An urodynamic study will measure the pressure in the bladder while water flows through and out of the bladder. It can also measure the bladder’s ability to store urine, and the patient’s ability to hold and control urination, as well as test for urinary leakage.
Basically, it is an examination of the overall functions of the bladder, urethra, and sphincter in order to detect and determine the causes and mechanisms of urinary system disorders and incontinence.
Urodynamic Study Procedures
An urodynamic study can be carried out through a variety of methods:
- Cystometry (CMG) – This is a test that assesses the relationship between bladder pressure and the amount of urine filling the bladder, carried out via a catheter. It also tests the functioning of the sphincter muscles.
- Electromyography (EMG) – This examines the muscles and nerves in the pelvic area in cases where the doctor predicts the problem may be related to nerve or muscle damage. Small sensors are placed near the urethra and rectum in order to assess the functioning of bladder muscles and sphincter while water enters and is released from the bladder.
- Urethral Pressure Profile – This may be carried out to test the functioning and strength of the urethra, using a catheter with a sensor to record the pressure inside the urethra.
- Uroflowmetry – This measures the volume, time, and flow rate of urine as it is released from the body in order to assess bladder functions during urination. The patient must urinate through a device placed inside a special toilet which includes equipment that records and calculates information then reports the results to the doctor to be used for further assessment.
- Pressure Flow Study or Voiding Pressure Study – This tests the relationship between bladder pressure while urinating and urinary flow rate in order to determine whether there is any blockage of the urethra or whether there is bladder muscle weakness.
The doctor will consider and choose the method most appropriate for each patient, according to their symptoms.
Suitable Candidates for an Urodynamic Study
Doctors will consider an urodynamic study for patients experiencing the following conditions:
- Moderate to severe urinary incontinence
- Urinary abnormalities, such as frequent urination, urinary retention, difficulty starting a urine stream, etc.
- Recurrent urinary tract infections
- Cases where an accurate diagnosis cannot be determined after other testing methods have been proven unsuccessful
- Cases where urinary incontinence surgery must be performed
Preparing for an Urodynamic Study
Patients do not need to make any special preparations prior to testing. Although, certain tests require the patient to drink large amounts of water in order to have enough urine for tests to be carried out. In some cases, patients must refrain from taking certain medications or consuming certain beverages prior to the test. The test usually takes around 2-3 hours to complete.
Possible Risks and Complications
An urodynamic study is a procedure that poses minimal risks; however, there are some chances of complications, such as urinary tract infection. Because of this, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics to be taken before and after the test in order to prevent and reduce the risk of infection.
Therefore, if after the examination patients experience a more frequent urge to urinate, urine that smells unusual, urine that is cloudy or has blood mixed in it, a burning or stinging sensation while urinating, an ability to pass only small amounts of urine at a time, pain in the lower back or sides, or fever, they should see inform their doctor immediately.
After an Urodynamic Study
After undergoing an urodynamic study, patients can resume their normal activities, although there may be some discomfort while urinating. Patients should also drink plenty of water in order to reduce irritation in the urethra.
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