Alaska Urological Institute

Neurogenic Bladder

Neurogenic bladder is a condition in which the bladder does not empty properly due to spinal cord damage or a neurological disorder such as spina bifida. Neurogenic bladder cannot be cured, but it can be managed. Institute urologists have a high success rate of utilizing effective treatments to help patients control their condition and lead normal lives.

Neurogenic bladder rarely occurs by itself, but is usually related to a larger condition, often the result of a malfunctioning spinal cord. The spinal cord is the long nerve that runs down the back and connects the brain with the body, allowing the brain to control bodily functions. When the spinal cord is not communicating with the body properly, some bodily functions may not work properly.

Neurogenic bladder can be caused by trauma or injury to the spinal cord, tumors in the central nervous system, pelvic tumors or diseases such as Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis. However, neurogenic bladder is closely associated with spina bifida because they often occur together. And because spina bifida is a birth defect, neurogenic bladder is commonly diagnosed at birth.

Spina bifida involves an abnormal development of the back bones, spinal cord, surrounding nerves and the fluid-filled sac surrounding the spinal cord. There are different forms of spina bifida, from mild to severe. Any form can result in bladder problems.

Spina bifida must be treated by a neurologist and, usually, several other types of doctors working together as a team. Institute pediatric urologists are an important part of this team, working with your child’s other physicians to treat the urological conditions caused by spina bifida.

One of the most common symptoms of neurogenic bladder is incontinence. A young child with neurogenic bladder may have to wear diapers, but as he or she grows older, we can help him or her manage the condition so that, by the time your child begins school, diapers are usually no longer necessary.

Some children require surgery, such as the implantation of an artificial sphincter or bladder augmentation. If surgery is the best treatment option for your child, the Institute’s pediatric urologists are very experienced in utilizing the most advanced, most effective surgical techniques.

Usually, we can give the child the ability to control his or her bladder with managed medication and occasional catheterization.

The news that your child has a congenital condition is daunting, but please feel reassured that effective treatments do exist and have been successfully used for years by families just like yours. In the vast majority of cases, we are able to help children with neurogenic bladder lead active, healthy lives.