What is Urethral Dilation?
Urethral dilation is a procedure used for the treatment of a medical condition called urethral strictures. The procedure is also known as meatal dilation when the stricture is at the end of the urethra.
The urethra is a tube through which urine, stored in the bladder, is passed outside the body. A urethral stricture is an abnormal area of constriction along the length of the urethra that reduces or obstructs the flow of urine. It is more common in males as the urethra is longer, passing through the penis and prostate gland. Urethral strictures usually occur due to inflammation and scar tissue formation in the urethra.
A urethral dilation procedure involves stretching the narrowed urethral opening (meatus) or sides of the urethra using various techniques such as metal or plastic dilators or inflating a balloon to clear the obstruction and improve urine flow.
Indications and Contraindications for Urethral Dilation
Urethral dilation is an options for the treatment of urethral strictures (scarring from infection, injury, or swelling) and meatal stenosis (narrowing of the urethral opening at the end of the penis). The main goal of the urethral dilation procedure is to stretch the scar tissue without harming the lining of the urethra.
Contraindications for a urethral dilation procedure include severe stricture disease, bleeding and untreated infection.
Procedure for Urethral Dilation
Urethral dilation may be performed in the office with local anesthesia, or in the operating room with sedation or general anesthesia. Both of these procedures are different from home urethral dilation, where a urine catheter is used to slow recurrence of urethral strictures
- The urethra is filled with a lubricating, numbing jelly.
- A flexible wire is placed through the urethral into the bladder
- Using the wire as a guide, a series of plastic or metal tubes will be inserted to gently stretch the stricture.
- A catheter may be left at the end of the procedure, if left, this usually remains for 1-3 days.
Home urethral dilation
Some patients perform urethral dilation at home.
The purpose of home urethral dilation is to keep a scarred are of the urethra open. Patients who wish to avoid surgery or cannot safely have surgery may be recommended to use a regimen of home dilation.
To dilate at home:
- Wash your hands with soap and water
- Take the provided catheter out of the package
- Apply any lubricant or wet the catheter (some catheters require both)
- Insert the catheter gently as far as recommended. For some men this may only be a few inches, for others it may be the full length.
- Remove the catheter.
Risks and Complications
Urethral dilation is a relatively safe procedure; however, as with any procedure, some risks and complications may occur, such as:
- Burning or pain on urination
- Adverse reactions to anesthesia
- Need to repeat dilation due to recurrent stricture formation