Causes of urinary incontinence after acute hemispheric stroke

David A. Gelber, David C. Good, Laurie J. Laven, Steven J. Verhulst

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

175 Scopus citations


Background and Purpose: We prospectively studied bladder function in stroke patients to determine the mechanisms responsible for poststroke urinary incontinence. Methods: Fifty-one patients with recent unilateral ischemic hemispheric stroke admitted to a neurorehabilitation unit were enrolled. The presence of urinary incontinence was correlated with infarct location, neurological deficits, and functional status. Urodynamic studies were performed on all incontinent patients. Results: Nineteen patients (37%) were incontinent. Incontinence was associated with large infarcts, aphasia, cognitive impairment, and functional disability (p<0.05) but not with age, sex, side of stroke, or time from stroke to entry in the study. Urodynamic studies, performed on all 19 incontinent patients, revealed bladder hyperreflexia in 37%, normal studies in 37%, bladder hyporeflexia in 21%, and detrusor-sphincter dyssynergia in 5%. All of the patients with normal urodynamic studies were aphasic, demented, or severely functionally impaired. All of the patients with hyporeflexic bladders had underlying diabetes or were taking anticholinergic medications. Forty-six percent of incontinent patients treated with scheduled voiding alone were continent at discharge compared with 17% of patients treated pharmacologically. Conclusions: There are three major mechanisms responsible for poststroke urinary incontinence: 1) disruption of the neuromicturition pathways, resulting in bladder hyperreflexia and urgency incontinence; 2) incontinence due to stroke-related cognitive and language deficits, with normal bladder function; and 3) concurrent neuropathy or medication use, resulting in bladder hyporeflexia and overflow incontinence. Urodynamic studies are of benefit in establishing the cause of incontinence. Scheduled voiding is a useful first-line treatment in many cases of incontinence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)378-382
Number of pages5
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1993

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Advanced and Specialized Nursing


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