A spinal cord injury can sometimes interrupt communication between the nerves in the spinal cord that control bladder and bowel function and the brain. This can cause bladder and bowel dysfunction known as neurogenic bladder or neurogenic bowel. People with multiple sclerosis or spina bifida might have similar problems.

Signs and symptoms of neurogenic bladder may include loss of bladder control (urinary incontinence), inability to empty the bladder, urinary frequency and urinary tract infections.

Signs of neurogenic bowel include loss of bowel control (bowel incontinence), constipation, bowel frequency and lack of bowel movements.

Bladder management options for people with a neurogenic bladder include:

  • Medications. Your doctor may prescribe medications to improve bladder function. These medications might help reduce bladder contractions, lower urinary frequency, improve loss of bladder control (incontinence), increase bladder storage or empty the bladder.
  • Clean intermittent catheterization (CIC). In CIC, you or a health care professional inserts a thin tube (catheter) through the urethra and into your bladder several times during the day to empty your bladder.
  • Continuous catheterization. A health care professional may insert a catheter through your urethra or abdominal wall and into your bladder to continuously empty your bladder.
  • Surgical intervention. Doctors trained in bladder management (urologists) may perform bladder reconstructive surgery that may resolve or improve bladder symptoms and management.

Bowel management options for people with a neurogenic bowel include:

  • Medications. Your doctor may prescribe medications to manage timing and consistency of bowel movements.
  • Anal irrigation. Anal irrigation is a new conservative bowel management therapy. Fluid is inserted through a catheter with an inflatable balloon to reduce constipation and assist in effective bowel movement and management.
  • Surgical intervention. Surgeons trained in bowel surgery (colorectal surgeons) may perform reconstructive surgery to resolve difficulties in bowel management.

The Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation Program at Mayo Clinic's campus in Minnesota offers several bladder and bowel management options for people with neurogenic bladder or bowel.

Neurogenic bladder and bowel management care at Mayo Clinic

Feb. 28, 2018
  1. Abrams GM, et al. Chronic complications of spinal cord injury and disease. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search. Accessed Jan. 23, 2018.
  2. What is neurogenic bladder? Urology Care Foundation. http://www.urologyhealth.org/urology/index.cfm?article=9. Accessed Jan. 23, 2018.
  3. Bowel control problems (fecal incontinence). National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse. http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/Pubs/fecalincontinence/index.aspx. Accessed Jan. 23, 2018.
  4. Maitin IB, et al., eds. Neurogenic bowel & bladder. In: Current Diagnosis & Treatment: Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation. New York, N.Y.: McGraw-Hill Education; 2015. http://accessmedicine.mhmedical.com. Accessed Jan. 23, 2018.
  5. Provider profile. CARF International. http://www.carf.org/providerProfile.aspx?cid=8020. Accessed Jan. 29, 2018.
  6. Riggin EA. Allscripts EPSi. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Sept. 28, 2017.

Neurogenic bladder and bowel management