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How are Urethral Strictures Diagnosed?

There are several tests to determine if you have a urethral stricture including:

  • physical exam
  • urethral imaging (X-rays or ultrasound)
  • urethroscopy (to see the inside of the urethra)
  • retrograde urethrogram

Urethroscopy

The doctor gently places a small, bendable, lubricated scope ( a small viewing instrument) into the urethra. It is moved up to the stricture. This lets the doctor see the narrowed area. This is done in the office and helps your doctor decide how to treat the stricture.

Retrograde Urethrogram

This test is used to see how many strictures there are, and their position, length and severity. This is done as an outpatient X-ray procedure. Retrograde in this case means "against the flow" of urine. Contrast dye (fluid that can be seen on an X-ray) is inserted into the urethra at the tip of the penis. No needles or catheters are used. The dye lets the doctor see the entire urethra and outlines the narrowed area. It can be combined with an antegrade urethrogram (antegrade means "with the flow" of urine). Dye inserted from below fills the urethra up to the injured area. Dye inserted from above fills the bladder and the urethra down to the stricture. These tests together let the doctor find the gap to plan for surgery.

Also, if you have trauma to the urethra, you may have this X-ray procedure after emergency treatment. Contrast dye can be injected through the catheter that was placed for healing.