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Nat Rev Urol. 2010 Jul;7(7):371-7. doi: 10.1038/nrurol.2010.78. Epub 2010 Jun 8.

Achieving urinary continence in children.

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Department of Urology, Stanford University School of Medicine, 300 Pasteur Drive, S-287, Stanford, CA 94305-5118, USA.


Achievement of urinary continence is an important developmental step that most children attain with the assistance of their parents and caregivers. Debate continues as to the best time to toilet train; in some Asian and African cultures children are trained as infants, while training at age 2-3 years is more typical in Western cultures. Infant voiding is not merely a spinal reflex, as the sensation of bladder filling is relayed to the brain. However, the ability of the brain to inhibit bladder contractions, and to achieve coordinated bladder contraction with sphincter relaxation, matures over time. While there is a concern that later toilet training may be responsible for an increase in urinary incontinence in children, no controlled studies on early versus late toilet training exist to evaluate this hypothesis. A number of medical conditions such as spina bifida, posterior urethral valves, cerebral palsy and autism can cause incontinence and difficulties in toilet training. The decision to start toilet training a child should take into account both the parents' expectation of how independent the child will be in terms of toileting, and the child's developmental readiness, so that a realistic time course for toilet training can be implemented.

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