Urinary Retention

Urinary Retention is a topic covered in the 5-Minute Emergency Consult.

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  • Acute urinary retention (AUR):
    • Sudden inability to void spontaneously
    • Occurs most frequently in men >60 yr old
    • Most common cause of AUR in the ED is benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH)


  • Multiple diagnostic considerations, following list is not exhaustive
  • Anatomic:
    • Penis:
      • Phimosis
      • Paraphimosis
      • Meatal stenosis
      • Foreign-body constriction
    • Urethra:
      • Tumor
      • Pelvic masses
      • Prolapse of pelvic organs
      • Foreign body
      • Calculus
      • Urethritis
      • Stricture
      • Meatal stenosis (can also be seen in females)
      • Hematoma
      • Vulvar edema after vaginal delivery
    • Prostate gland:
      • Benign prostatic hypertrophy
      • Carcinoma
      • Prostatitis
      • Contracture of bladder neck
      • Prostatic infarction
  • Neurologic causes:
    • Motor/paralytic:
      • Spinal shock
      • Spinal cord syndromes
    • Sensory/paralytic:
      • Diabetes
      • Multiple sclerosis
      • Spinal cord syndromes
  • Drugs:
    • Antihistamines
    • Anticholinergics
    • Antispasmodics
    • Tricyclic antidepressants
    • α-Adrenergic stimulators
    • Narcotics
    • NSAIDs

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