PUV is an abnormality of the urethra, which is the tube that drains urine from the bladder to the outside of the body for elimination. The abnormality occurs when the urethral valves, which are small leaflets of tissue, have a narrow, slit-like opening that partially impedes urine outflow. Reverse flow occurs and can affect all of the urinary tract organs including the urethra, bladder, ureters, and kidneys. The organs of the urinary tract become engorged with urine and swell, causing tissue and cell damage. The degree of urinary outflow obstruction will determine the severity of the urinary tract problems.
PUV is the most common cause of severe types of urinary tract obstruction in children. It is thought to develop in the early stages of fetal development. The abnormality affects only males and occurs in about one in 8,000 births. This disorder is usually sporadic (occurs by chance). However, some cases have been seen in twins and siblings, suggesting a genetic component.
The syndrome may occur in varying degrees from mild to severe. The following are the most common symptoms of posterior urethral valves. However, each child may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:
The symptoms of PUV may resemble other conditions or medical problems. Always consult your child's doctor for a diagnosis.
The severity of the obstruction often determines how a diagnosis is made. Often, PUV is diagnosed by fetal ultrasound while a woman is still pregnant. Children who are diagnosed later often have developed urinary tract infections that require evaluation by a doctor. This may prompt your doctor to perform further diagnostic tests, which may include:
At Children’s National in Washington, DC, our pediatric urologists provide comprehensive care for disorders affecting reproductive and urinary organs.
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