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Management Of Urinary Retention In An Austere Environment: Suprapubic Catheter Placement

Summer 2010

Smith CP, Sorrells A, Coburn M. 10(3). 36 - 40. (Journal Article)


Abstract Urinary retention is a true urologic emergency. First-line treatment with a transurethral catheter can and will fail. SOF medics need a reliable and durable method to resolve this problem using a minimal amount of resources and time. Current SOF Medical Handbook guidance for the management of unsuccessful urethral catheterization is inadequate. This article and accompanying video link, functions as a starting point for incorporating suprapubic tube placement in the training regimen and therapeutic armamentarium of SOF medical personnel. Case Scenario #1 You are a SOF medic assigned to a remote area in Africa. A Soldier is brought to you after a rollover MVA. He is noted to have an obvious pelvic fracture and on physical exam is found to have blood at the urethral meatus. On digital rectal exam his prostate is not palpable. You suspect a posterior urethral injury. A gentle pass with a transurethral catheter is unsuccessful - resistance is encountered and blood returns through the catheter, so no further advancement is attempted. The patient's suprapubic area is distended and he complains of an unbearable urge to urinate. How do you manage this soldier's urinary retention? Case Scenario #2 You are a SOF medic assigned to a remote firebase in Afghanistan. A prominent and influential tribal chief is brought into your clinic complaining of an inability to urinate. He gives a long history of urethral stricture disease treated in the past with rudimentary urethral dilations. On physical exam, he has a palpable mass to the level of the umbilicus that is dull to percussion and he describes a strong and painful urge to void when pressure is applied. You are unsuccessful in your attempts to pass a transurethral catheter. You do not have the ability or resources to perform urethral dilation. Aerial evacuation assets are not available. What do you do next?

PMID: 21049433