Urethral Strictures in Males Workup

Updated: Oct 04, 2021
  • Author: Joshua A Broghammer, MD; Chief Editor: Bradley Fields Schwartz, DO, FACS  more...
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Approach Considerations

Urethral strictures are diagnosed based on a suggestive history, findings on physical examination, and radiographic or endoscopic techniques. The entire urethra, both proximal and distal to the strictured area, must be evaluated endoscopically and/or radiographically prior to any surgical intervention. [23]


Imaging Studies

Radiographic evaluation of the urethra with contrast studies is best achieved by retrograde urethrogram or antegrade cystourethrogram if the patient has an existing suprapubic catheter. Retrograde urethrograms (RUG) and antegrade cystourethrograms are usually obtained through the radiology department, although the urologist can perform them directly. These studies can be used to diagnose and define the extent of the urethral stricture. Accurately documenting the extent and location of the stricture is important so that the most effective treatment options can be offered to the patient.

The technical aspects of a retrograde urethrogram involve placing a nonlubricated 8F or 10F urethral catheter into the fossa navicularis and inflating the balloon with 1-3 mL of sterile water until the balloon occludes the urethral lumen. A scout film is obtained. Approximately 10 mL of iodinated contrast media is then injected into the catheter under fluoroscopy, and images of the anterior urethra are taken. Extreme pressure during the injection phase can lead to extravasation and should be avoided. Do not mistake the membranous urethra for a stricture. On a retrograde urethrogram, the membranous urethra lies between the distal end of the verumontanum and the conical tip of the bulbous urethra. See the images below.

Retrograde urethrogram demonstrating bulbar urethr Retrograde urethrogram demonstrating bulbar urethral stricture.
Urethral strictures. Retrograde urethrogram demons Urethral strictures. Retrograde urethrogram demonstrating complete obliteration of the bulbous urethra.
Retrograde urethrogram demonstrating pan-urethral Retrograde urethrogram demonstrating pan-urethral stricture disease.
Urethral strictures. Retrograde urethrogram demons Urethral strictures. Retrograde urethrogram demonstrating patent urethra after buccal mucosa urethroplasty.
Urethral strictures. Retrograde urethrogram demons Urethral strictures. Retrograde urethrogram demonstrating patent urethra after excision of stricture and primary anastomosis.

An antegrade cystourethrogram involves distending the bladder with water-soluble contrast media via a suprapubic tube or urethral catheter. A scout film is taken before administration of contrast material. Once the bladder is fully distended with contrast media, the suprapubic tube is clamped or the urethral catheter is removed and the patient is asked to void. Spot films are taken before, during, and after the voiding phase. This study can help delineate the posterior urethral anatomy.

Ultrasonography of the male urethra can be useful in evaluating urethral strictures. A transducer can be placed longitudinally along the phallus, within the lumen of the urethra or along the perineum. Ultrasonography can be used to evaluate the stricture length and the degree and depth of spongiofibrosis. Several authors have described techniques that involve distension of the urethra with normal saline instilled in a retrograde fashion prior to ultrasonography. Ultrasonography demonstrates thicker periurethral tissues at the level of the stenosis compared to unaffected areas of the urethra.

Ouattara et al showed that urethral strictures identified on perineal sonograms were significantly longer than those identified on retrograde urethrography and voiding cystourethrography. [24]  However, in a series of 92 patients, Shahsavari et al found the estimated lengths of strictures were significantly shorter using sonography compared to RUG. [9]

A study by Zhang et al evaluated patients with conventional voiding and retrograde urethrography and 64-row multidetector CT (64-MDCT) urethrography and found that 64-MDCT urethrography is a useful alternative to traditional radiographic methods for defining male urethral strictures. [25, 23]


Diagnostic Procedures

Endoscopic evaluation can be conducted by flexible or rigid cystourethroscopy. Flexible cystourethroscopy can be performed with little discomfort to the patient using only local anesthesia, such as 2% lidocaine jelly intraurethrally.M alignancy should be ruled out with an endoscopic biopsy.