Overview

A ureterocele is a congenital abnormality characterized by the swelling of the distal end of the ureter as it enters the bladder. This swelling can obstruct urine flow, leading to various urinary complications. Ureteroceles are commonly diagnosed in connection with ureteral duplication and can affect one or both ureters.

The term ‘ureterocele’ is derived from ‘ureter,’ referring to the tube connecting the kidneys to the bladder, and ‘cele,’ which means swelling or protrusion. Historically, ureteroceles have been classified based on their anatomical location. The two primary types are intravesical ureteroceles, located entirely within the bladder, and ectopic ureteroceles, which extend into the urethra or are located elsewhere outside the bladder. In the past, open surgical intervention was the primary treatment approach. With advancements in medical imaging and endoscopic techniques, treatment options have become more varied and minimally invasive. Untreated ureteroceles can lead to recurrent urinary tract infections (UTIs), kidney damage, and other complications.

Causes

Ureteroceles are congenital, meaning they develop before birth as a result of improper formation of the ureter. The exact cause of this developmental anomaly is not fully understood, but it is related to defects in the ureter’s insertion into the bladder.

Risk Factors

While the exact cause is unknown, certain factors may increase the risk of developing a ureterocele:

  • Female gender (girls are more commonly affected than boys).
  • Congenital anomalies of the urinary tract.
  • Family history of urinary tract anomalies.

Complications

If left untreated, ureteroceles can lead to several complications:

Recurrent UTIs: Due to urine stasis and incomplete bladder emptying.

Kidney Damage: Obstruction of urine flow can lead to hydronephrosis and kidney damage.

Vesicoureteral Reflux (VUR): Urine can flow backward from the bladder into the ureters and kidneys, increasing the risk of infections and kidney damage.

Bladder Dysfunction: Persistent obstruction can affect bladder function over time.

Prevention

There are no known preventive measures for ureteroceles since they are congenital. However, early detection and management can prevent complications. Prenatal ultrasound can sometimes detect ureteroceles before birth, allowing for early intervention. Antibiotic prophylaxis can be helpful to prevent urinary tract infections which are more common in patients with ureteroceles.

Symptoms

When to see a doctor