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HomeHealth articlesacute pyelonephritisHow Can We Manage Urinary Retention in Children?

Urinary Retention in Babies - Types, Causes, Clinical Features, and Management

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Urinary retention, also known as bladder failure, is a congenital disease of the urogenital tract in the kidney. It causes damage to the kidney.

Written by

Dr. Kriti Singh

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Veerabhadrudu Kuncham

Published At November 18, 2022
Reviewed AtMay 12, 2023


A child’s bladder can hold approximately 60 to 250 milliliter volumes of urine. The holding capacity varies with age. An increase in volume stimulates the brain signal to urinate. Therefore, the importance of retained urine is increased than bladder capacity. The child has the urge to urinate, but the child is unable to urinate. It can persist for more than twelve hours. Urinary retention can be acute and chronic based on duration and cause. In case of acute urine retention, immediate treatment is required.

What Are the Types of Pediatric Urine Retention?

There are two types of urinary bladder retention found in children.

  • Acute Urinary Retention: It is of sudden onset and persists for a shorter period. The child cannot urinate even if the bladder is filled. As a result, there is severe abdominal pain. The child needs treatment immediately.

  • Chronic Urinary Retention: It is of gradual onset. It occurs over a longer duration of time. The child can urinate in this condition, but the bladder is not completely emptied.

What Are the Causes of Pediatric Urinary Retention?

Infection: It is a common cause of pediatric urinary retention. Various infections, cystitis pyelonephritis, causes urinary retention. Viral infections from adenovirus also cause urinary retention.

  • Neuromuscular Disorders - Urinary retention is prevalent in children suffering from neuromuscular dysfunction. Multiple sclerosis, acute disseminated encephalitis, multiple sclerosis, spina bifida, and Guillain-Barre syndrome are neuromuscular diseases that cause urinary retention in children. In addition, neuromuscular lesions such as cerebral palsy, meningocele, and arachnoiditis also cause urinary retention.

  • Congenital - Congenital obstructive lesions such as posterior urethral valves and polyps are also causes of urinary retention in children.

  • Constipation - Distended rectum causes elevation of bladder floor and posterior urethra resulting in urinary retention.

  • Medications - Medicines such as neuroleptics, antihistamines, and alpha-adrenergic agonists cause urinary retention.

  • Inflammatory Process - Abscess, meatal stenosis, and labial adhesions cause urinary retention.

  • Hypermagnesemia - It is found in newborns exposed to maternal magnesium, resulting in urinary retention.

  • Overdistension - If the bladder is stretched beyond its standard capacity, it impairs the elastic properties and causes voluntary overdistention.

What Are the Clinical Features of Pediatric Urinary Retention?

The signs and symptoms of urinary retention depend on the type.

  1. Acute Urinary Retention - Following are the signs and symptoms of acute urinary infection.

    1. There is severe pain present in the lower part of the abdomen.

    2. The presence of bloating in children is seen.

    3. The child feels the urge to urinate but is unable to pass urine.

  2. Chronic Urinary Retention - The following are the signs and symptoms of chronic urinary infection.

    1. There is the presence of abdominal pressure.

    2. The urine stream appears to be weak.

    3. There is the presence of mild abdominal pain.

    4. The child feels the urge to urinate frequently.

    5. The child faces difficulty in emptying the bladder.

What Is the Treatment Plan for Pediatric Urinary Retention?

Pediatricians treat urinary retention based on the type and cause of urinary retention.

Following are the management methods for pediatric urinary retention.

  1. Draining Bladder - In case of acute urinary retention, the pediatrician drains the bladder immediately with the help of a catheter. Emptying the bladder reduces abdominal pain. In addition, it prevents kidneys from getting damaged. The catheter used is of the intermittent type, and it is removed after usage.

  2. Medications - Medications help treat medical conditions in which urinary retention is found. Alpha reductase inhibitors improve the flow of urine. In addition, it helps in shrinking the growth of the prostate. Dutasteride and Finasteride have commonly used alpha-blockers. Alpha blockers such as Prazosin, Silodosin, and Terazosin relax muscles in the bladder necks. Relaxation of muscle causes urination. A combination of five alpha-reductase inhibitors and alpha-blocker blockers can be given to the child. In case of infections such as urinary tract infections, antibiotics are given.

  3. Stoppage of Drugs - If any medicine is causing urinary retention in the child, parents should stop it immediately or lower the dose of medicine.

  4. Cystoscopy - In this Process, a cystoscope removes the blockage from the urinary tract.

  5. Laser - Laser therapy is used to remove blockage or obstruction by strong beams of the laser. It helps in treating enlarged prostate tissue and reducing the obstruction.

  6. Electrovaporization - In this Process, heat vaporizes enlarged prostate tissue. It is also known as transurethral vaporization.

  7. Rezum - In this Process, transurethral water vapor is used to shrink the enlarged tissue.

  8. Urolift - Prostatic implants lift the prostate away from the urethra so that urine can flow freely.

  9. Urethral Dilation - The size of the urethra is gradually increasing by stretching the scar tissue. It helps to treat urethral stricture.

  10. Surgery - Surgery is indicated if invasive treatment is not working. Following are the surgical procedures used to treat urinary retention.

    1. Removing prostate.

    2. Repairing urethral strictures.

    3. Repairing pelvic organ prolapse.

    4. Urinary diversion procedures.

    5. Removing herniated disc.

    6. Repairing abnormal bladder and urethra.

What Should Parents Do if Their Child Is Suffering From Urinary Retention?

Parents should take the following measures if the child suffers from urinary retention.

  • Parents should properly monitor and observe their children.

  • Parents should give their children a warm water bath as warm water helps relax the muscles and helps drain the urethra.

  • A warm towel should be kept below the baby’s navel.

  • Parents should encourage the child to walk lightly.

  • Parents should keep their child in the toilet for some time to create a psychological effect.

  • Parents should maintain the fluid intake of the child.

  • Parents should give their children a lot of fruits and vegetables to avoid constipation.

  • Parents should take the child to a pediatrician timely for treatment.


Urinary retention causes difficulty in urination. It is commonly found in children with neuromuscular disorders. Children suffering from diseases are irritable, crying, and extremely uncomfortable. Parents are clueless and worried about this situation. Prolonged untreated urinary retention can cause distension of the bladder resulting in stagnation of urine, causing urinary tract infections. If the urine retention is acute, it requires emergency treatment. Parents should visit a pediatrician if they see signs and symptoms in a child.

Frequently Asked Questions


How to Treat Urinary Retention in Children?

Bladder catheterization is one procedure to treat urinary retention in children. It involves releasing urine from the body with the help of a urinary or bladder catheter. Taking diuretics will also make it easier for the child to urinate.


How Serious Is Urinary Retention?

Despite having a full bladder, individuals with acute urinary retention are unable to urinate. Acute urinary retention can be life-threatening and cause severe pain. Therefore, it is critical that an individual seek immediate medical attention in the event that they suddenly become unable to urinate.


How Do Doctors Treat Urinary Retention?

The cause determines the appropriate treatment. Some causes of urinary retention are simpler to treat than others. A doctor might suggest some treatments, such as the following -
- Antibiotics for a urinary tract infection.  
- Using a catheter for bladder drainage.
- Physical therapy for pelvic floor dysfunction.
- Urethral dilation (a surgical procedure) to treat a blocked or constricted urethra. 
- A stent insertion into the urethra to prevent future blockages. 
- Surgery to remove the prostate itself or an enlarged prostate tissue or growth


Is Retention of Urine an Emergency?

The sudden onset of acute urinary retention can be extremely uncomfortable or painful. A person with acute urinary retention cannot urinate at all, even if their bladder is full, and it is a potentially fatal medical condition that necessitates immediate emergency treatment.


Can Urinary Retention Be Cured?

Pelvic floor muscle exercises, also known as Kegel exercises, improve the function of the nerves and muscles of the bladder for proper emptying. In addition, physical therapy can assist in gaining control over the symptoms of urinary retention.


What Does the Retention of Urine Indicate?

A condition known as urinary retention occurs when a person is unable to eliminate all of their urine from the bladder. Urinary retention is not a disease, rather, it may be caused by other health issues, such as a cystocele in women or prostate issues in men.


What Are the Adverse Effects of Urinary Retention?

The kidneys can become so full of urine from urinary retention that they swell and press on nearby organs. This pressure can harm the kidneys and, in some cases, lead to kidney failure or chronic disease. Other side effects include pain and swelling in the lower abdomen and the urgency to urinate.


Is Urinary Retention Temporary?

Urinary retention may be acute or chronic (long-standing). Most of the time, acute urinary retention is sudden and is of temporary duration. If the symptoms go away and do not return, individuals who experience temporary urinary retention due to medication or anesthesia during surgeries may not require medical attention.


Does Urinary Retention Damage Kidneys?

The kidneys, the ureters, the bladder, and the urethra are all parts of the urinary tract. The urethra is where the urine goes. Urinary retention occurs when people cannot empty their bladder, and the urine may build up in their kidneys. When the kidneys are overloaded with urine, they may swell and press on other organs. This pressure can harm the kidneys and, in some cases, lead to kidney failure or chronic disease.


How to Treat Urinary Retention Naturally?

Relaxing the lower urinary tract or pelvic floor muscles may be a straightforward treatment for urinary retention if the primary symptom is a weak urine stream. A warm bath is a good way to relax the muscles and encourage urination in addition to physical therapy.


What Happens if Urinary Retention Is Left Untreated?

The bladder may stretch too far or too long if urinary retention is not treated. This causes the bladder muscles to become damaged and no longer function properly if they are stretched too much or too long. It also causes adverse effects on kidney function.


How Much Is the Recovery Time From Urinary Retention?

Recovery can take anywhere from two days to several months, depending on the type of treatment. However, within one to three days of catheter placement, the majority of patients regain normal voiding function after a trial without catheterization.


How Long to Wait With Urinary Retention?

If the bladder function has been affected in any way, it could be a sign of another health issue that is deeper than that. It is best not to wait too long to address issues with urination. When symptoms persist for 36 to 48 hours, it is time to seek a professional diagnosis.


Does Constipation Lead To Urinary Retention?

Constipation, which results in a lot of stool in the colon, can put pressure on the bladder, making it not fill as much as it should or contract when it should not. In addition, the bladder may only be partially empty due to a large amount of stools.
Dr. Veerabhadrudu Kuncham
Dr. Veerabhadrudu Kuncham



acute pyelonephritisurinary retention
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