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J Urol. 2008 Nov;180(5):2068-75. doi: 10.1016/j.juro.2008.07.037. Epub 2008 Sep 18.

Office dilation of the female urethra: a quality of care problem in the field of urology.

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Detroit Receiving Hospital and The Detroit Medical Center, Detroit, Michigan 48201, USA.

Erratum in

  • J Urol. 2009 May;181(5):2390. Anger, Jennifer T [added].



Historically dilation of the female urethra was thought to be of value in the treatment of a variety of lower urinary tract symptoms. Subsequent work has more accurately classified these complaints as parts of various diseases or syndromes in which scant data exist to support the use of dilation. Yet Medicare reimbursement for urethral dilation remains generous and we describe practice patterns regarding female urethral dilation to characterize a potential quality of care issue.


Health care use by females treated with urethral dilation was compiled using a complementary set of databases. Data sets were examined for relevant inpatient, outpatient and emergency room services for women of all ages.


Female urethral dilation is common (929 per 100,000 patients) and is performed almost as much as treatment for male urethral stricture disease. Approximately 12% of these patients are subjected to costly studies such as retrograde urethrography. The overall national costs for treatment exceed $61 million per year and have increased 10% to 17% a year since 1994. A diagnosis of female urethral stricture increases health care expenditures by more than $1,800 per individual per year in insured populations.


Urethral dilation is still common despite the fact that true female urethral stricture is an uncommon entity. This scenario is likely secondary to the persistence of the mostly discarded practice of dilating the unstrictured female urethra for a wide variety of complaints despite the lack of data suggesting that it improves lower urinary tract symptoms.

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