A ureteral obstruction is a blockage in one or both of the tubes (ureters) that carry urine from your kidneys to your bladder. Ureteral obstruction can be curable. However, if it's not treated, symptoms can quickly move from mild — pain, fever and infection — to severe — loss of kidney function, sepsis and death.
Ureteral obstruction is fairly common. Because it's treatable, severe complications are rare.
The female urinary system — which includes your kidneys, ureters, bladder and urethra — is responsible for removing waste from your body through urine. Your kidneys, located in the rear portion of your upper abdomen, produce urine by filtering waste and fluid from your blood.
The male urinary system — which includes your kidneys, ureters, bladder and urethra — is responsible for removing waste from your body through urine. Your kidneys, located in the rear portion of your upper abdomen, produce urine by filtering waste and fluid from your blood.
Ureteral obstruction might have no signs or symptoms. Signs and symptoms depend on where the obstruction occurs, whether it's partial or complete, how quickly it develops, and whether it affects one or both kidneys.
Signs and symptoms might include:
Make an appointment with your doctor if you have signs and symptoms that worry you.
Seek immediate medical attention if you experience:
Different types of ureteral obstruction have different causes, some of them present at birth (congenital). They include:
Ureteral obstruction may be caused by:
Various causes inside (intrinsic) or outside (extrinsic) the ureter can lead to ureteral obstruction, including:
A duplicated ureter occurs when two ureters form on the same kidney. A ureterocele is a small bulge in the ureter, usually in the end closest to the bladder. Both conditions may lead to ureteral obstruction.
Ureteral obstruction can lead to urinary tract infections and kidney damage, which can be irreversible.
Often, doctors diagnose ureteral obstruction disorders before birth during routine prenatal ultrasounds, which can show details of the developing fetus, including the kidneys, ureters and bladder. Doctors often perform another ultrasound after birth to re-evaluate the kidneys.
If your doctor suspects you have an obstructed ureter, some of these tests and scans might be used to reach a diagnosis:
The goal of ureteral obstruction treatment is to remove blockages, if possible, or bypass the blockage, which may help repair damage to the kidneys. Treatment might include antibiotics to clear associated infections.
A ureteral obstruction that causes severe pain might require an immediate procedure to remove urine from your body and temporarily relieve the problems caused by a blockage. Your doctor (urologist) may recommend:
Your doctor can tell you which procedure or combination of procedures is best for you. Drainage procedures might provide temporary or permanent relief, depending on your condition.
There are a number of surgical procedures used to correct ureteral obstructions. The type of procedure depends on your situation.
Ureteral obstruction surgery may be performed through one of these surgical approaches:
The main differences among these surgical approaches are your recovery time after surgery and the number and size of incisions used for the procedure. Your doctor (urologist) determines the type of procedure and the best surgical approach to treat your condition.
You might start by seeing your primary care provider. Or, you might be referred immediately to a urinary tract specialist (urologist).
Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment.
When you make the appointment, ask if there's anything you need to do in advance, such as fasting before having a specific test. Make a list of:
Take a family member or friend along, if possible, to help you remember the information you're given.
For ureteral obstruction, basic questions to ask your doctor include:
Your doctor is likely to ask you several questions, such as: