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Obstructive uropathy

Last reviewed: 24 Jun 2024
Last updated: 19 Mar 2024



History and exam

Key diagnostic factors

  • signs of early organ dysfunction (tachypnea, tachycardia, hypotension, altered mental state) in a patient with suspected sepsis
  • flank pain
  • fever
  • lower urinary tract symptoms
  • distended abdomen/palpable bladder
  • inability to urinate
  • enlarged or hard nodular prostate on rectal examination
  • costovertebral angle tenderness
  • neurologic disease (e.g., spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis)
Full details

Other diagnostic factors

  • hematuria
  • increasing age
  • meatal narrowing
  • pelvic or abdominal malignancy
  • previous urethral instrumentation
  • urinary tract infection in a child
  • pelvic mass on internal examination
  • weight loss and lymphadenopathy
  • recurrent urinary tract infections
  • urinary incontinence
Full details

Risk factors

  • benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH)
  • constipation
  • medication (anticholinergic agents, narcotic analgesia, alpha receptor agonists)
  • urolithiasis (ureteric calculi)
  • spinal cord injury, Parkinson disease, or multiple sclerosis
  • malignancy
  • pregnancy
  • hematuria
  • posterior urethral valves
  • bladder hernia
  • cystocele
  • iatrogenic injury
  • urethral instrumentation
  • retroperitoneal fibrosis
  • meatal stenosis
Full details

Diagnostic tests

1st tests to order

  • urinary dipstick
  • renal ultrasound
  • serum BUN and creatinine
  • CBC
  • CT abdomen and pelvis without contrast
Full details

Tests to consider

  • urine culture
  • blood culture
  • CT scan abdomen and pelvis without and with contrast
  • magnetic resonance urography (MRU)
  • intravenous pyelogram (excretory urography)
  • nuclear renography (triple renal/MAG3 scan)
  • voiding cystourethrogram
  • bladder ultrasound
  • prostate specific antigen
  • tumor markers (e.g., serum carcinoembryonic antigen [CEA], CA125)
Full details

Treatment algorithm


unilateral or bilateral obstruction with signs of infection


unilateral or bilateral obstruction due to calculi without signs of infection

unilateral obstruction not due to calculi without signs of infection

bilateral obstruction not due to calculi without signs of infection



Adrienne J. Carmack, MD


Integrative Health Matters




AJC declares that she has no competing interests.

Peer reviewers

Brian Cohen, MD

Private Practice Urologist




BC declares that he has no competing interests.

Yekutiel Sandman, MD

Private Practice Urologist




YS declares that he has no competing interests.

Vincent Gnanapragasam, MBBS, BMedSci, PhD, FRCSEng, FRCSEd(Urol)

Lecturer in Uro-oncology and Consultant Urological Surgeon

Department of Urology

Addenbrooke's Hospital




VG declares that he has no competing interests.

  • Differentials

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  • Guidelines

    • EAU guidelines on urolithiasis
    • EAU guidelines on urolithiasis
    More Guidelines
  • Patient information

    Catheterization (female): having a catheter fitted

    Catheterization (male): having a catheter fitted

    More Patient information
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