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Inability to Urinate (cont.)

Inability to Urinate Outlook

The prognosis depends on the source of the problem.

  • People with urinary retention caused by obstruction, infection, drugs, or the postoperative state generally recover much more easily than those with a nerve problem. The time frame for recovery varies, however.
  • People who continue to have urinary retention despite treatment may need long-term therapy. The best option for long-term therapy is clean, intermittent catheterization.
  • You or your caregiver can be taught how to insert a removable catheter into the bladder to allow urine to drain.
  • Catheterization can either be a temporary measure until normal urination returns or be more permanent.
  • The other option is placing a Foley catheter into the bladder either via the urethra or through the skin. Tubes will be changed monthly to limit the risk of infection.
  • Clean, intermittent catheterization also remains a treatment option for people who can urinate but cannot completely empty the bladder.
  • Sometimes, by teaching a person to self-catheterize one to three times per day, the problem can be improved significantly.

Medically reviewed by Michael Wolff, MD; American Board of Urology

Previous contributing authors and editors: Author:Stuart M Gaynes, MD, Medical Director, Department of Emergency Medicine, Olathe Medical Center.

Coauthor(s): Kathryn L Hale, MS, PA-C, Medical Writer,, Inc.

Editors:Scott H Plantz, MD, FAAEM, Research Director, Assistant Professor, Department of Emergency Medicine, Mount Sinai School of Medicine; Francisco Talavera, PharmD, PhD, Senior Pharmacy Editor, eMedicine; James Ungar, MD, Medical Director, Chair Department of Emergency Medicine Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital.


Leveillee, Raymond J., and Vipul R. Patel. "Benign Prostate Hyperplasia." June 8, 2009. <>.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/5/2015

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