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J Urol. 1999 May;161(5):1535-40.

Diagnosing bladder outlet obstruction in women.

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Department of Urology, New York University Medical Center, New York, USA.



There are no universally accepted urodynamic criteria for diagnosing female bladder outlet obstruction. When accepted criteria for men are applied to women, the diagnosis of obstruction may often be missed, which is most likely due to differences in voiding dynamics. We propose video urodynamic criteria for diagnosing obstruction in women, and describe the urodynamic findings in those with and without obstruction.


We reviewed the charts of 331 women who underwent multichannel video urodynamics for nonneurogenic voiding dysfunction. Of these women 261 (mean age 55.8 years) had evaluable voiding pressure flow studies with simultaneous video fluoroscopy of the bladder outlet during voiding. At video urodynamics cases were classified as obstructed if there was radiographic evidence of obstruction between the bladder neck and distal urethra in the presence of a sustained detrusor contraction. Strict pressure flow criteria were not used. Maximum flow rate, detrusor pressure at maximum flow rate, post-void residual, bladder capacity and the incidence of detrusor instability were compared between obstructed and unobstructed cases.


A total of 76 women met the criteria for obstruction (mean age 57.5 years), while 184 (mean age 55) did not. Causes of obstruction were dysfunctional voiding in 25 cases, cystocele in 21, primary bladder neck obstruction in 12, iatrogenic from incontinence surgery in 11, urethral stricture in 3, uterine prolapse in 2, urethral diverticulum in 1 and rectocele in 1. Obstructed cases had lower mean maximum flow rate (9 versus 20.2 ml. per second, p <0.0001), higher mean detrusor pressure at maximum flow rate (42.8 versus 22.1 cm. water, p <0.0001) and higher mean post-void residual (157 versus 33 ml., p <0.0001). There was no difference in bladder capacity (381 versus 347 ml.) or incidence of detrusor instability (45 versus 41%).


Using the proposed video urodynamic criteria obstructed cases had significantly higher voiding pressures, lower flow rates and higher post-void residual than unobstructed cases, as expected. However, absolute values, especially for voiding pressure, are not as dramatic in women as in men. Pressure flow studies alone may fail to diagnose obstruction but simultaneous imaging of the bladder outlet during voiding greatly facilitates diagnosis.

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