• Clinical science

Diagnostic investigations in urology


Patients with urological symptoms are diagnosed based on clinical features and routine diagnostics. Urodynamic tests help to evaluate functional and anatomical abnormalities of the lower urinary tract. The most common tests are cystometry, uroflowmetry, urethral pressure profile, and leak point pressure. Imaging may be used in combination to diagnose underlying pathologies and is often used to assess for anatomical obstructions or abnormalities (e.g., urinary obstructions caused by kidney stones, renal masses).

For more on renal function tests, urinalysis, urine dipstick, and renal biopsy, see diagnostic evaluation of the kidney and urinary tract.
For more on urine culture, see “Laboratory tests” under diagnostics in urinary tract infections.

Urodynamic studies

Urodynamic studies use the characteristics of urinary flow (pressure and flow rate at various points during micturition and at rest) to evaluate the functional and anatomical abnormalities of the lower urinary tract.


  • Description
    • Assesses bladder pressure during filling
    • Determines detrusor and bladder function (activity, sensation, capacity, and compliance)
    • The bladder is filled with water through a urethral catheter at a steady rate → the vesical pressure is measured through this urethral catheter, while the intraabdominal pressure is measured via a vaginal or rectal pressure catheter → detrusor pressure = the difference in pressure between these two catheters
  • Indications


  • Description
    • Measures the volume of urine voided over time
    • The patient is asked to void into a funnel that measures the volume and rate of urine flow.
      • Normal: a continuous, single bell-shaped curve with urine volume > 200 mL (over 15–30 seconds) and at a rate > 15 mL/sec
      • Abnormal: an abnormal curve or urine volume at a rate < 15 mL/sec (a urine volume < 150 mL increases the risk of an inaccurate assessment)
  • Indications

Pressure-flow study

  • Description
    • To determine the underlying mechanism of an abnormal uroflowmetry assessment
    • Measures detrusor pressure while voiding
  • Indications

Urethral pressure profile

  • Description
    • Assesses intrinsic sphincter function
    • Measures the intraluminal urethral integrity at different pressures (filling and voiding pressures are measured under different types of provocation, e.g., Valsalva maneuver, coughing, etc.)
    • A specialized urethral catheter, mounted with microtransducers, is withdrawn at a slow and steady rate from the bladder until it exits the external urethral meatus.
  • Indications

Leak point pressure

Postvoid residual volume

Electromyelogram (EMG)

  • May be performed during cystometry
  • Studies the electrical potentials of depolarized muscle, specifically the neural pathways involved in micturition (by evaluating the segment of the sacral spinal cord involved)
  • Electrodes or a concentric needle are inserted into the urethral sphincter.
  • Indication: to determine neurological abnormalities of the bladder (e.g., hypotonic bladder)


Imaging techniques


The bladder should be full to visualize pelvic structures!


  • Indications
    • Investigation of choice to detect urinary calculi and renal masses
    • Visualization of the urothelium in suspected malignancies and cases of obstruction
    • CT angiography helps evaluate acute pelvic trauma and tumor blood supply, as well as diagnose renal vascular malformations

Renal scintigraphy (also known as renal radionuclide scan, radioisotope renography)

Voiding cystourethrogram

Intravenous urography (excretory urogram, IV urography)

CT urography

  • Description: a CT with contrast dye injected inravenously to assess the anatomy and, to a certain degree, function of the urinary collecting system, renal calyces, ureters, and bladder.
  • Indications: a first-line imaging test to assess for genitourinary abnormalities (e.g., malignancy, stricture)

Retrograde urethrogram

Retrograde CT cystography




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last updated 03/18/2020
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