Bladder Complications

Because the urinary system will no longer work as it was intended, complications can arise from the bladder not filling and emptying correctly. The following are a few of the more common complications following a spinal cord injury.

Urinary Tract Infection

After a spinal cord injury, individuals are at a high risk of urinary tract infection (UTI). Complications due to UTI are the number one medical concern and more likely to affect your overall health and health care costs.

The source of UTI is bacteria. Bacteria are a group of tiny, microscopic single-celled life forms that live in the body and are capable of causing disease or infection.

It is normal for individuals with SCI to have bacteria in their bladder. Bacteria from the skin and urethra are easily brought into the bladder with ISC, Foley, and Suprapubic methods of bladder management. Also, individuals with SCI are often not able to completely empty their bladder. Bacteria are likely to grow in urine that stays in the bladder.

Signs of a bladder infection may include a rise in body temperature, fever, sweating, increased spasticity, autonomic dysreflexia, cloudy urine.

Bladder Stones

Stones form in the bladder when waste products crystallise. In most cases, these stones are made up of calcium. Stones are usually between 0.2cm and 2cm, but may be smaller or much larger.

Anything that causes urine to remain in the bladder creates the right environment for stones to form because waste products won’t be removed as they normally would. This may occur because the bladder isn’t emptying completely.

Risk factors for bladder stones include:

Poor fluid intake

Recurrent urine infections

Incomplete emptying of the bladder

Increasing age

Bladder stones can cause irritation and also cause incontinence, also known as irritable bladder. Stones may also block catheters, and cause repeated bladder infections .

Drinking plenty of fluids helps keep the bladder flushed out, and helps to prevent the formation of bladder stones.

Large bladder stones may need to be removed in a procedure called cystoscopy. During this process a fibre-optic camera, called a cystoscope, is inserted into the bladder via the urethra. Any bladder stones can usually be broken up during this procedure, and then washed out.