There are several urodynamic tests a doctor may recommend. You may need multiple tests for a full diagnosis.
Urodynamic tests see how well your urinary tract, especially your bladder, urethra, and sphincters, functions. Often, these tests measure how well your bladder can hold and then release urine.
These tests can help a doctor find the cause of symptoms, such as frequent, painful, incomplete, or sudden urination as well as difficulties like incontinence or frequent urinary tract infections.
Most urodynamic tests are quick and noninvasive and have a very low risk of side effects.
There are a few reasons a doctor might order urodynamic testing.
If you’ve been having difficulty with any aspect of urination, urodynamic testing can help find out why. Reasons you might have urodynamic testing include:
- frequent urinary tract infections (UTIs)
- painful urination
- urinary leakage and incontinence
- urinary frequency
- urinary urgency
- difficulty starting to urinate
- difficulty emptying your bladder
Are urodynamic tests accurate?
Urodynamic tests can measure factors such as how much urine your bladder holds, how well your bladder expels urine, the pressure that causes your bladder to contract, and whether there are any blockages in your urinary tract.
The tests can help doctors make an accurate diagnosis of many conditions. However, since many conditions have overlapping symptoms, urodynamic testing might not be the only type of testing you’ll need.
There are several types of urodynamic tests. The exact procedure depends on the test.
Commonly used urodynamic tests include:
- Uroflowmetry: Uroflowmetry measures how much urine your bladder can hold and how fast it can release it. During the test, you urinate into a special funnel attached to a collection container and a scale. A device measures your output and creates a graph of your urinary flow rate.
- Postvoid residual measurement: A postvoid residual measurement is a measure of how much urine is left in your bladder after you urinate. This test can use imaging, such as a bladder ultrasound, or a catheter inserted into your bladder to drain any remaining urine.
- Cystometric test: A cystometric test measures how much your bladder can hold and how full your bladder is when you feel the urge to urinate. During the test, a small catheter is placed into your empty bladder. Your bladder is then slowly filled with warm water. Doctors record when you feel the urge to start urinating.
- Leak point pressure test: This test is sometimes done alongside a cytometric test. It can help identify a pressure point, or amount of fullness, in your bladder that causes leakage. It uses a special tool called a nanometer. A doctor might also ask you to put additional stress on your bladder, such as by coughing or changing positions.
- Pressure flow study: You might have a pressure flow study if a doctor thinks a blockage is making it difficult for you to urinate. This test also uses a nanometer that records the pressures in your bladder as it fills and as you release urine.
- Electromyography: Electromyography measures the electrical activity in the muscles and nerves around your bladder. It uses sensors placed on your skin in your pelvic area. The sensors record your nerve activity.
- Video testing: Imaging tests using videos can help a doctor watch your bladder in action to see what might be causing any difficulties. Imaging tests can include an X-ray or ultrasound.
Is urodynamic testing painful?
Urodynamic testing is not typically painful. However, some people find the test uncomfortable and unpleasant.
Additionally, you might feel pressure during tests that involve filling your bladder and inserting a catheter.
There isn’t any special preparation needed for a urodynamic test. Sometimes, you might be asked to change the amount of fluids you consume on the day of your test or arrive at testing with a full bladder.
Your care team may ask you not to take certain medications on the day of the test or for a few days before the test. Your care team will let you know if this applies to you.
Urodynamic tests are safe. They are not typically associated with side effects.
However, there is a chance of complications. For example, some people have a risk of a blood pressure spike during urodynamic testing. This risk is highest in people with spinal conditions or spinal cord injuries.
Catheter insertion can also increase the risk of UTIs.
Your care team can help you understand these risks and any other possible complications connected to specific factors, such as any medications you take or other health conditions you have.
Your care team can take steps to reduce these risks and make urodynamic testing safe for you.
Urodynamic tests help assess bladder and urinary tract function. Doctors use them to help find the cause of symptoms such as painful urination, frequent UTIs, incomplete bladder emptying, urinary urgency, and incontinence.
There are several types of urodynamic testing. You might have a few different tests to confirm a diagnosis. There are some possible complications of urodynamic testing, but they are manageable and testing is overall safe.