Urinary retention is the inability to urinate or to fully empty the bladder. It is often a temporary side effect from surgery and can be caused by the anesthesia, or can be due to a blockage in the urethra, the tube that carries urine from the bladder to outside the body, or it can be caused by damage to the nerves that trigger the bladder to empty. It can also be a side effect of certain medications or a late effect associated with radiation therapy to the pelvis that encompasses the bladder or urethra.
The management of urinary retention requires identification of the cause. Your doctor may order a cystogram, a procedure in which the the lining of the bladder and urethra are visualized. In the event of an infection, antibiotics may be prescribed.
To maintain good urinary hygiene, drink 6-8 glasses of water each day and empty your bladder at least 4-6 times per day.
When to contact your care team
Urinary retention requires evaluation by your healthcare provider to identify the cause. Contact your care provider if you experience urinary symptoms, including:
- Lower abdominal pain with the urge to urinate.
- Passing a small amount of urine without relief of the urge to urinate.
- Signs of a urinary tract infection (back pain, fever, painful urination, blood in the urine).
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. 2014. Found at: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/urologic-diseases/urinary-retention
Merck Manual. Genitourinary Disorders. 2017. Found at: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/genitourinary-disorders/voiding-disorders/urinary-retention