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Evaluation and diagnosis of bladder dysfunction in children

Kenneth G Nepple, MD, FACS
Christopher S Cooper, MD, FACS, FAAP
Section Editors
Laurence S Baskin, MD, FAAP
Tej K Mattoo, MD, DCH, FRCP
Deputy Editor
Melanie S Kim, MD


Bladder dysfunction, also referred to as voiding dysfunction, is a general term to describe abnormalities in either the filling and/or emptying of the bladder. It is a common problem in children and constitutes up to 40 percent of pediatric urology clinic visits [1]. In some children, bladder dysfunction is associated with constipation referred to as bowel bladder dysfunction, which had been previously called dysfunctional elimination syndrome (DES).

Daytime urinary incontinence, a common feature of bladder dysfunction, can cause major stress in school-age children [2,3], and negatively impact a child's self-esteem [4]. Thus, it is desirable to identify and treat affected school-age children as early as possible.

The evaluation of non-neurologic bladder dysfunction in children will be reviewed here. The etiology and clinical features of bladder dysfunction in children are discussed separately. The clinical features, evaluation, and management of children with bladder dysfunction due to myelomeningocele also are discussed separately. (See "Etiology and clinical features of bladder dysfunction in children" and "Management of bladder dysfunction in children" and "Urinary tract complications of myelomeningocele (spina bifida)".)


The goals of the evaluation for suspected bladder dysfunction in children are to:

Determine whether the child has an abnormality in either filling and/or emptying of the bladder.

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Literature review current through: Oct 2017. | This topic last updated: Jul 31, 2017.
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