Search Menu
Search entire library by keyword
Choose by letter to browse topics
(A-Z listing includes diseases, conditions, tests and procedures)

Neurogenic Bladder

What is a neurogenic bladder?

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.

What causes neurogenic bladder?

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

What are the symptoms of neurogenic bladder?

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 consult a health care provider for a diagnosis.

How is neurogenic bladder diagnosed?

If your doctor 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.
  • Electroencephalogram (EEG). This test records the brain's electrical activity through electrodes attached to the scalp. (No electricity is sent into the body.)
  • Imaging tests of the bladder and ureters.
  • Intravenous pyelogram (IVP). A series of X-rays of the kidney, the tubes connecting the kidneys and bladder (ureters), and bladder is done after a contrast dye is injected into a vein.
  • Ultrasound (also called sonography). This imaging test uses high-frequency sound waves to create images of the organs on a computer screen.
  • Cystoscopy. Your health care 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. These tests show how much the bladder can hold and check to see if it fully empties.

How is neurogenic bladder treated?

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

What are the complications of a neurogenic bladder?

The following are often linked to a neurogenic bladder:

  • Urine leakage often occurs 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 occur 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.

Key points about neurogenic bladder

  • 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.

Next steps

Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your health care provider:

  • 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 names of new medicines, treatments, or tests, and any new instructions your provider gives you.
  • 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.

Find a physician at another Johns Hopkins Member Hospital:

Find Additional Treatment Centers at: