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World J Urol. 2000 Oct;18(5):324-9.

Anatomic and functional studies of the male and female urethral sphincter.

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  • 1Department of Urology, University of Innsbruck, Austria.


A total of 28 human specimens (14 male, 14 female) was used to perform macro- and microscopic studies on the morphologic basis of the urethral continence mechanism. Furthermore, functional studies were performed in six sheep, with the aim of looking at the pudendal and autonomic innervation of the urethra and the rhabdosphincter, as well as the changes of autonomic innervation after selective denervation. Transurethral ultrasound was performed in 34 continent patients, in order to visualize the contractions of the rhabdosphincter. The membranous urethra is innervated by branches of the autonomic pelvic plexus. The rhabdosphincter is an omega-shaped loop of striated muscle fibers that is innervated by the pudendal nerves. These results are supported by the results of animal experiments that show that the autonomic nerves predominantly innervate and regulate the upper part of the urethra, whereas stimulation of the pudendal nerves leads to a contraction of the lower part of the sheep urethra. In electron-microscopy, marked degeneration of the smooth muscle cells could be seen in the sheep with bilateral denervation.

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