Ureteric obstruction

Ureteric obstruction

What is a ureteric obstruction?

Ureteric obstructions are any physical blockage of one or both ureters which prevent urine form leaving the body effectively. Strictures, bladder stones, kidney stones, and ureteric tumours can all be to blame, as well as blood vessel diseases and scar tissue. While fairly common and highly curable, ureteric obstruction can become life-threatening if left untreated – urine which remains trapped inside the body can cause severe infections and kidney damage.

Sandhurst Urology offers diagnosis, management, and medical intervention for all types of ureteric obstructions from our clinic in Bendigo. To book an appointment, please ask your GP for a referral.

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Symptoms of a ureteric obstruction

The symptoms produced by ureteric obstruction can vary depending on the obstruction’s cause. As some blockages develop slowly, the symptoms may onset gradually before becoming significant. These symptoms may include:

  • Abdominal pain (particularly if caused by kidney stones)
  • Difficulty urinating or emptying your bladder fully
  • Blood in the urine
  • Recurring urinary tract infections
  • Fever
  • Nausea and vomiting

Advanced stages may also be characterised by severe loss of kidney function and sepsis, potentially leading to death. Seek medical attention immediately if you exhibit these symptoms.

Remember that your own experience with ureteric obstruction is individual – you may not experience every symptom and may experience slightly different symptoms to those specified. For further advice and diagnosis, book an appointment at Sandhurst Urology.

How ureteric obstructions are diagnosed

Your doctor will usually ask for a range of tests to help identify the obstruction’s cause and location, which can help them determine the best course of treatment. These tests can include:

  • Cystoscopy – a minimally invasive procedure which allows your doctor to see inside the bladder. Under a local anaesthetic or a light sedative, a urologist passes a tiny camera through your urethra and into your bladder. This allows them to visually inspect potential tumours or other causes of obstruction.
  • Urine cytology – you may be asked to provide a small urine sample in a cup, which will be sent to a pathology lab where it is analysed for cancer cells and/or infection.
  • MRI scans – these use magnetic imaging to create a detailed map of your body’s soft structures. Doing so can help the doctor confirm whether a blockage is present, assess its cause, and plan an effective course of treatment.
  • CT scan – 3-dimensional imaging allows for accurate assessment of drainage and sites of potential obstruction.
  • Nuclear imaging functional scans can be utilised to assess for possible obstruction.

Preventing ureteric obstructions

As ureteric obstructions can have many causes, there is no single way to prevent them. The tumours, vascular conditions, genetics, and birth defects which influence its appearance are difficult to anticipate, though medical guidance can reduce their impact.

If you are considered at risk of developing kidney stones, bladder stones, prostate enlargement, or other conditions which can lead to obstructions, your doctor may recommend regular tests to identify and treat them in their early stages. Ask GP for a referral to a doctor at Sandhurst Urology for individualised advice.

Treatments for ureteric obstruction

Your available treatment options can vary depending on the cause of the blockage. Some blockages are caused by factors which can be managed through medication, though others are more likely to need physical interventions.

Obstructions caused by an enlarge prostate may be treated using medications which cause the prostate to shrink. These can include alpha-blockers, which relax the prostate’s muscles, and finasteride or dutasteride, which reduces its size. Sometimes, medications can also manage blockages caused by kidney stones.

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Medical interventions for ureteric obstruction

If an intervention is recommended to treat your ureteric obstruction, the exact procedures available may vary according to the blockage’s cause and your overall health. Treatments offered through Sandhurst Urology’s Bendigo clinic include:                                                         

  • Ureteral stent insertion – this involves placing a thin tube in the ureter (the tube which transports urine to the bladder) which holds it open. Your urologist may recommend it if a deformity in the ureter is causing the obstruction. This is usually a temporary management strategy.
  • Percutaneous nephrostomy – a small catheter is placed in your kidney through a small incision in your back, draining urine from it while bypassing the blocked ureter. The tube may stay in place for several weeks as you undergo treatments which affect the blockage directly.
  • Kidney stone management – obstructions caused by kidney stones which cannot pass can be managed through medication and minimally invasive procedures. Sandhurst Urology provides a variety of treatments for kidney stones: visit our dedicated information page on kidney stones to learn more about them.
  • Pelviureteric juncture (PUJ) obstruction management – as with kidney stones, ureteric blockages caused by PUJ obstructions can be managed using a variety of methods. Learn more about Sandhurst Urology’s capabilities by visiting our PUJ obstruction information page.

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