Urethral Stricture

Picture10The urethra is the tube that urine flows out of from the bladder. It passes through the penis in men. The urethra is much shorter in women and ends just above the vagina.A stricture occurs when a part of the urethra becomes narrowed. Any section of the urethra may be affected. The length of strictures vary from less than 1 cm to the full length of the urethra.  Urethral stricture is more common in men and rare in women.




Causes

Injury or damage
There are various types of injury that can damage the urethra. For example: an injury may occur during medical procedures to look into the bladder via the urethra; a fall astride on to the frame of a bike can cause damage.

Infection

  • Sexually transmitted infections such as gonorrhoea or chlamydia.
  • Infection as a complication of long-term use of a catheter to drain the bladder.
  • Infection may cause inflammation in the tissues in and around the urethra.
  • Congenital – some babies are born with a urethral stricture.
  • Cancer – very rarely.
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Symptoms

  • Reduced urine flow is the usual first symptom.
  • Straining to pass urine is common but a complete blockage of urine flow is rare.
  • Reduced urine flow is the usual first symptom.
  • Spraying of urine or a double stream may occur.
  • Dribbling of urine for a while after going to the toilet to pass urine.
  • Frequency (needing to pass urine more often than normal).
  • Urine infections.
  • You may have a reduced force of ejaculation.
  • Sometimes, mild pain on passing urine.

Complications

More pressure is needed from the bladder muscle to pass urine out through a stricture (it acts like a bottleneck). Not all urine in the bladder may be passed when you go to the toilet. Some urine may pool in the bladder. This residual pool of urine is more likely to become infected. This makes you more prone to bladder, prostate and kidney infections. An abscess (ball of infection) above the stricture may also develop. This can cause further damage to the urethra and tissues below the bladder. Cancer of the urethra is a rare complication of a long-standing stricture.

Tests

  • Tests to determine the flow rate of urine — Uroflow
  • A look into the urethra by a special thin telescope will be needed to assess the stricture — Cystoscopy
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  • Special X-rays may be taken whilst you pass urine, which can show the site and severity of a stricture — RGU and MCU
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Treatment

Treatment is usually advised to improve the flow rate of urine, ease symptoms and to prevent possible complications. Treatment options include the following. The one advised by your specialist will depend on factors such as the site and length of your stricture, and also your age and general well-being.

Dilatation (widening) of the stricture

This is usually done by passing a thin plastic rod (boogie) into the urethra. This procedure may be done either under a local or a general anaesthesia. Rods of increasing thickness are gently inserted to gradually widen (dilate) the narrowed stricture. The aim is to stretch and widen the stricture without causing additional scarring. However, a stricture often tends gradually to narrow again after each dilation. Therefore, a repeat dilation is commonly needed every so often when symptoms recur. (Some people are given a self-lubricating catheter which they insert themselves regularly to keep a stricture dilated.)

Urethrotomy

UrethrotomyIn this procedure, a thin telescope is passed into the urethra to see exactly where the stricture is. This is done during a general anaesthesia. A tiny knife is then passed down the telescope to cut along the stricture. This widens the narrowed stricture. You will get some relief of symptoms from this procedure. About one case in three is cured for good. However, like dilation, the stricture may re-form and the procedure may have to be repeated from time to time in some cases. 

Generally, the shorter the stricture, the greater the chance of a cure with this procedure. For example, one research study found that when a urethrotomy was done for a stricture less than 2 cm, there was a recurrence of symptoms within 12 months in about 4 in 10 cases. However, there was a recurrence in 8 in 10 cases within 12 months when the stricture was greater than 4 cm.


Surgery

BUCCAL MUCOSA GRAFT URETHROPLASTYEND TO END ANASTOMOTIC URETHROPLASTYA corrective operation may be an option if the above do not work. Various techniques are used. For example, a short stricture can be cut out and the two ends of the healthy urethra stitched together. 

If the stricture is longer, then one kind of operation is similar to skin grafting the inside lining of the urethra. A graft is usually used from the inside of your cheek to form the new section of your urethra. Techniques continue to improve and your specialist will advise if an operation is likely to be successful, and which operation is best for the length and site of your stricture. As a rule, there is a high success rate in curing symptoms with these operations.



Stenting

People who are unfit for surgery, due to age or other infirmity, may be offered a stent. This is a spring-like device which holds the walls of the urethra open and prevents the stricture from blocking the flow of urine. It is used as a last resort, as the device sometimes dislodges and can cause pain during intercourse.
We at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital provide all range of treatment options for the urethral stricture from simple dilatation to urethroplatsy .