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Postoperative urinary retention in women

Elizabeth R Mueller, MD, MSME, FACS
Section Editor
Linda Brubaker, MD, FACOG
Deputy Editor
Kristen Eckler, MD, FACOG


Postoperative urinary retention (POUR) refers to impaired voiding after a procedure despite a full bladder that results in an elevated postvoid residual (PVR) [1]. It is a subtype of female voiding dysfunction, which is defined by the International Continence Society and the International Urogynecological Association as an “abnormally slow and/or incomplete micturition based on symptoms and urodynamic investigations” [2]. This topic will review the etiology, diagnosis and management of POUR in women.


The incidence of POUR in the general surgical population (men and women) is reported from 4 to 13 percent [3-5]. In two studies, the incidence of POUR after cesarean delivery done with epidural anesthesia ranged from 23 to 28 percent. Estimates of POUR after pelvic surgery range from 2 to 43 percent [6].


Meta-analysis and observational studies have identified the following perioperative risk factors for POUR in the general population (men and women) [1,3,7]:

Age over 50 years (doubles the risk of POUR [1])

History of preexisting urinary retention

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Aug 19, 2016.
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