Neurogenic bladder is when you have urinary problems related to issues with your brain, spinal cord, or other nerves. It’s a common problem among people with cerebral palsy.

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Cerebral palsy is the most common movement disability in children. It’s caused by damage to a child’s brain before or soon after birth. Symptoms can range from mild to severe.

Read more about cerebral palsy here.

The ability to urinate properly involves neural feedback from your brain and spinal cord to your bladder. Changes in the nervous system of people with cerebral palsy can lead to neurogenic bladder.

Learn more about neurogenic bladder here.

Cerebral palsy primarily causes problems with:

  • movement
  • balance
  • posture

Everybody with cerebral palsy has movement problems, but some people have other problems, such as intellectual disability or urinary control problems.

Approximately 30% to 60% of people with cerebral palsy have urinary problems such as neurogenic bladder.

Neurogenic bladder occurs when you lack proper bladder control due to problems with your brain, spinal cord, or other nerves. The severity of urinary tract symptoms in people with cerebral palsy is related to their level of:

People with cerebral palsy commonly have symptoms of an overactive bladder, such as:

Factors indirectly related to cerebral palsy, like catheter use and frequent urinary tract infections (UTIs), can cause or worsen bladder spasms.

Less commonly, people with cerebral palsy can have an underactive bladder. Symptoms of an underactive bladder include:

  • poor urine flow
  • slow start to your urine stream
  • feeling like your bladder isn’t completely empty (urinary retention)
  • straining to empty your bladder

Neurogenic bladder is caused by a disruption in the typical neural pathway from your brain to your bladder. It’s caused by abnormal development or damage to your nerves, spinal cord, or brain.

In a 2020 review of studies, researchers found that the risk of UTI is significantly higher in children and adolescents with cerebral palsy than in the general population.

Other potential complications of neurogenic bladder include:

Learn more about complications of cerebral palsy.

There are several treatment options for neurogenic bladder for people with cerebral palsy. These include:

Incontinence training

In a 2022 study, researchers found that incontinence training with urotherapy can be an effective treatment for urinary incontinence in children with cerebral palsy.


Urotherapy refers to nonsurgical and nonmedication-based therapies for neurogenic bladder. It includes:


Medications such as oxybutynin are also sometimes used to treat neurogenic bladder.


Surgery may be needed if symptoms are severe and other treatments fail.

Cerebral palsy is a lifelong disability. Clinical symptoms may change or worsen over time as your child’s central nervous system matures and their body changes. People with mild forms of cerebral palsy have almost the same chances of living a full life as people without cerebral palsy.

The outlook for people with cerebral palsy who have neurogenic bladder varies. Many people have improvements in their symptoms with treatment.

The doctor or healthcare professional seeing your child will ask questions to find out what symptoms your child is experiencing. They’ll also want to know about other symptoms, such as trouble with bowel function or whether your child has a history of UTIs.

The doctor may want to measure your child’s urinary tract function with a urodynamic study. The urodynamic study includes tests like:

  • pressure flow study to measure how well their bladder handles pressure
  • leak point pressure measurement to see if their bladder leaks
  • electromyography to test nerves
  • cystometric test to see how much urine their bladder can hold

The doctor may also order imaging to look at your child’s nerves, spinal cord, or brain. Imaging techniques may include:

Here are some frequently asked questions people have about cerebral palsy and neurogenic bladder.

Do children with cerebral palsy outgrow neurogenic bladder?

Children with cerebral palsy often have delayed development of bladder control, but many children are able to gain good bladder function with treatment as they mature.

How many people with cerebral palsy have problems with urinary control?

It’s estimated that more than 50% of people with cerebral palsy deal with urinary control problems.

Can neurogenic bladder be treated?

A combination of medications, neurostimulation, and behavioral therapies can potentially help people with cerebral palsy improve their bladder control.

Neurogenic bladder is bladder dysfunction caused by problems with your nerves, spinal cord, or brain. It’s common in people with cerebral palsy.

In general, people with greater disability are more likely to have neurogenic bladder. A combination of treatments such as cognitive behavioral therapy, neurostimulation, and medications may help people with cerebral palsy improve their symptoms.