The challenges in the diagnosis of detrusor underactivity in clinical practice: A mini-review

Ahmed Ahmed, Bilal Farhan, Simone Vernez, Gamal M. Ghoniem

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Objective To review the current definitions, terminology, epidemiology and aetiology of detrusor underactivity (DU), with specific attention to the diagnostic criteria in use. In addition, we address the relation and the overlap between DU and bladder outlet obstruction (BOO). In this mini-review, we hope to help identify DU patients and facilitate structured clinical evaluation and research. Methods We searched the English literature using ScienceDirect and PubMed for relevant articles. We used the following terms: ‘detrusor underactivity’, ‘underactive bladder’, ‘post voiding residual’, ‘post micturition residual’, ‘acontractile bladder’, ‘detrusor failure’, and ‘detrusor areflexia’. Result DU is one of the most common conditions causing lower urinary tract symptoms (LUTS). Unfortunately, it is also the most poorly understood bladder dysfunction with scant research. To our knowledge there is no clear definition and no non-invasive method to characterise this important clinical condition. DU may result from the normal ageing process; however, it has multiple aetiologies including neurogenic and myogenic dysfunction. In many cases the symptoms of DU are similar to those of BOO and it usually requires invasive urodynamic study (UDS) for diagnosis to differentiate the two diagnoses. A number of diagnostic tests may be used including: UDS testing, the Schafer pressure/flow nomogram, linear passive urethral resistance relation, Watts factor, and the bladder contractility index. Of these, UDS testing is the most practical as it determines both the maximum urinary flow rate and the pressure exerted by the detrusor muscle relative to the maximal flow of urine, allowing for precise characterisation of detrusor function. Conclusion Currently, the diagnosis of DU is based on invasive urodynamic parameters as defined by the International Continence Society in 2002. There is no consensus for the definition of DU prior to 2002. As there is significant overlap between the symptoms of DU and BOO, it is difficult to diagnose DU clinically.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)223-227
Number of pages5
JournalArab Journal of Urology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Bladder outlet obstruction
  • Chronic urinary retention
  • Detrusor underactivity
  • Underactive bladder
  • Urodynamic

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Urology


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