Ureteral Obstruction

What is an Ureteral Obstruction?

A ureteral obstruction is an uncommon condition that is characterized by a full or partial blockage in one or both ureters that extend from the kidneys to the bladder. It prevents the proper elimination of body waste, and it can be a life-threatening condition that strikes people of every age.

It may be caused by congenital abnormalities, nervous system disorders, blood clots, prior surgeries, kidney stones, bladder stones, injuries, tumors, polyps, prostate enlargement, rectal impaction, pregnancy and certain types of cancer.

What are the Symptoms of an Ureteral Obstruction?

The symptoms of a ureteral obstruction depend on the cause and whether it is a full or partial blockage.

Symptoms include:

  • Pain on either side of the pelvic area and/or between the hip and ribs
  • Queasiness
  • Vomiting
  • Fever
  • Difficult urination
  • Slow urine stream
  • Frequent urgency to urinate that may increase at night
  • Feeling of urine in the bladder after urination
  • Bloody urine

Ureteral Obstruction Causes

There are various causes for diverse types of ureteral obstruction. Some of these causes are present at birth and can be treated right away.

Various causes include:

  • Duplication of the ureter, which is the tube that takes urine to the bladder from the kidney. This is a congenital cause, which means that it is present at birth and occurs from two ureters forming on one kidney.
  • Abnormality in the connection between the kidney or the bladder, which inhibits urine flow. This can cause swelling in the kidney, and can be developed from a tumor, injury, or scars in rare situations.
  • Ureterocele refers to a narrow state of the ureter, which does not allow for proper urine flow. A ureterocele can develop close to the bladder which can cause the kidney to receive excess urine, which can cause damage of the kidney.
  • Retroperitoneal fibrosis is caused by fibrous tissue developing behind the abdomen. Cancer or migraine medications can cause the fibers to grow. These fibers also cause urine to collect in the kidneys, which leads to kidney damage.

Other potential causes of ureteral obstruction are severe constipation, ureter wall swelling, tumors (cancerous and noncancerous), ureteral stones, or tissue growth internally. Tuberculosis and schistosomiasis can cause the ureter wall to swell.

How is an Ureteral Obstruction Treated?

After blood tests, imaging, and/or endoscopy confirms diagnosis, treatment will depend on the ureteral obstruction cause.

Treatments include:

  • Surgical blockage removal
  • Urethra dilation, surgery and hormone replacement therapy for prostate cancer or enlargement
  • Bladder catheterization
  • Stent insertion

If a ureteral obstruction is not treated it can result in kidney and ureter damage, kidney failure, sepsis and death. Seek immediate medical care when signs of kidney infection or failure are present.

Ureteral Obstruction Prevention

To prevent ureteral obstruction, regular checkups should take place with your physician and it is important to let them know if symptoms or signs alarm you.

Ensure medical attention is sought immediately if experience any of the following symptoms.

Symptoms such as:

  • Pain, chills, and fever
  • Urine contains blood
  • Pain, vomiting, and nausea
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Difficulty sitting comfortably due to severe pain

Tests that can be used as a safeguard to prevent onset of ureteral obstruction are ultrasounds, voiding cystourethrograms, blood and urine tests, renal nuclear scan, cystoscopy, CT scan, or MRI tests. It is important to stay in communication with your doctor if any signs or symptoms persist.

Last Reviewed:
October 11, 2016
Last Updated:
September 10, 2017
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