• Clinical science

Genitourinary trauma


Genitourinary trauma involves injury to the kidneys, ureters, bladder, and/or urethra. It may result in high morbidity if not properly identified and managed. The diagnosis of genitourinary trauma typically relies on patient history, physical examination, urinalysis, and imaging (CT, cystoscopy, retrograde urethrogram). Renal trauma is most often an acute condition caused by a blunt abdominal injury and may, if severe, represent a urological emergency. The classical symptoms of renal trauma are hematuria and pain in the affected side following injury. Mild trauma generally only requires monitoring, while high-grade injury may require emergency surgery and intensive care. Injury to the ureters is rare and generally iatrogenic, occurring mostly during operative procedures. Management may require stent placement with surgical repair. Bladder injuries are common in blunt abdominal trauma. Classic symptoms are gross hematuria, an inability to void, and abdominal pain. Extraperitoneal bladder injuries usually resolve with catheterization, while intraperitoneal injury requires surgery, which can help to prevent peritonitis and urosepsis. Urethral injuries may involve the posterior urethra, causing a high-riding prostate and blood at the urethral meatus, or the anterior urethra, causing perineal pain or hematoma. Treatment may be conservative or surgical depending on the severity of injury. Complications of the genitourinary tract include urinary extravasation, urinoma, abscess formation, renal hypertension, and loss of function in the affected kidney.


Renal and ureteral injuries

  • Blunt abdominal trauma (80% of cases); : falls from a height, automobile collisions, blows to the torso, pelvic fractures
  • Blunt thoracic trauma: associated with lower rib (9th –12th) fractures
  • Penetrating trauma (gunshot or stab wounds); assault (physical or sexual)

Bladder injuries

Urethral injuries

  • Anterior urethral injuries:
    • Direct trauma to perineum (direct blow, straddle injury): bulbous urethra is most commonly injured
    • In conjunction with penile fracture
    • Iatrogenic (instrumentation of urethra)
  • Posterior urethral injuries:
  • Less common in women due to a shorter and more mobile urethra

In patients with pelvic fractures, always evaluate for possible injury to the genitourinary system!


Clinical features

Renal and ureteral injuries

  • Pain, bruising, hematoma on the affected side
  • Hematuria
  • Possible accompanying injuries (e.g., rib fracture with motion-dependent pain)
  • In large perirenal hematoma: shock
  • Ureteral injuries are easily overlooked, but can cause palpable flank mass, flank pain, and fever.

Bladder injuries

  • Extraperitoneal and/or intraperitoneal injury
    • Gross hematuria (majority of cases)
    • Inability to void
    • Pain in the lower abdomen
  • Intraperitoneal injury

Urethral injuries

Findings upon examination
Both types
Anterior urethral injury
Posterior urethral injury
  • High-riding prostate on exam
  • Inability to void despite urge → palpably distended bladder
  • Suprapubic pain

Injury to the urinary system can be easily masked by multiple concurrent injuries to other organ systems and is therefore easily overlooked!



General approach to genitourinary trauma

  • Patient history
  • Physical examination
  • Urinalysis with microscopy: macroscopic hematuria (urine not clear or yellow) or microscopic hematuria
    • The color of the urine does not correlate with injury severity!
    • Microscopic hematuria after significant (nonurethral) trauma is common; no further diagnostic tests are needed in patients who are hemodynamically stable and present without any other signs or symptoms of associated pelvic or abdominal injury
  • Blood analysis: exclude anemia due to blood loss; assess renal function (creatinine)

Evaluate the genitourinary tract in a retrograde fashion, beginning with the external genitalia and urethra!

Renal and ureteral injury

  • CT with IV contrast of the abdomen/pelvis: to assess renal and accompanying injuries or intra-abdominal fluid retention
  • Delayed CT imaging: indicated if injury to the renal pelvis and ureters is suspected
  • IV pyelography: to assess for contrast extravasation if delayed CT images are nondiagnostic
  • Urethrocystography: if CT is unavailable

Bladder injury

  • Retrograde cystography or retrograde CT cystography: to assess for bladder rupture in patients with gross hematuria (can be seen in Foley catheter if it has been placed) or microscopic hematuria and pelvic fracture
    • Do not perform urethrogram or cystogram if severe pelvic vascular injury is suspected!

Urethral injury

  • Retrograde urethrogram: to rule out suspected urethral injury
    • This should be the first diagnostic step in a patient with suspected traumatic injury to the genitourinary tract!
    • Contrast extravasation from the urethra at point of injury
  • Foley catheter placement: in cases of gross hematuria without other signs of urethral injury (see clinical features), a single attempt at Foley catheter placement may be attempted

A negative urinalysis does not exclude renal injury because not all injuries affect the renal pelvis and urinary tract!




  • Hemodynamically stable patients with minor trauma: observe with Foley catheter placement, if needed, for hematuria and/or oliguria
  • Hemodynamically unstable patients: may require immediate surgical intervention for other injuries prior to definitive treatment of genitourinary injuries

Renal and ureteral trauma

Low-grade renal injury

  • Observation and vital sign monitoring with bed rest
  • Antibiotic prophylaxis
  • Monitor for hematuria

High-grade renal injury

  • Stable hemodynamics
    • Conservative measures
    • Ensure adequate urine flow with double-J ureteral stent
  • Unstable hemodynamics: : emergent exploration with surgical defect repair and possible nephrectomy to prevent life-threatening bleeding

Ureteral trauma

  • Cystoscopic stent placement with surgical repair over stent if needed
  • May require urinary diversion

Bladder injuries

  • Goal is to keep bladder decompressed → minimizes bladder wall tension to facilitate healing
    • No urethral injury: place Foley catheter to drain bladder; irrigate bladder to clear clots
    • Extraperitoneal injury without involvement of bladder neck: insertion of a transurethral indwelling catheter; otherwise suprapubic urinary diversion
    • Extraperitoneal injuries involving bladder neck: associated with rectal/vaginal injury and all intraperitoneal injuries (i.e., bladder dome) → open surgical repair

Urethral injuries

  • The goal is to maintain urinary continence and sexual function.
  • Place suprapubic catheter to decompress bladder (diverts urine from the healing urethra and anastomosis)
  • Anterior urethral injury
    • Partial injury: place Foley catheter for healing by secondary intention
    • Penetrating injury: surgical exploration with debridement and defect repair with a direct anastomosis over a catheter
  • Posterior urethral injury
    • Endoscopic approach: early realignment (within 1 week) with combined transurethral and percutaneous transvesical approach
    • Surgical approach: place suprapubic catheter → delayed urethroplasty (6–12 weeks after initial injury)




We list the most important complications. The selection is not exhaustive.