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Get the facts. And the help you need.

Urinary Diversion

You do not need to have a bladder in order to live but it is critical to maintain an uninterrupted flow of urine from the body. Fortunately, this flow can be accomplished with a urinary diversion procedure. Read on to learn more.

What happens under normal conditions?

The urinary tract is similar to a plumbing system, with special pipes that allow water and salts to flow through them. The urinary tract includes the kidneys, two ureters, the bladder and the urethra.

The kidneys act as a filter system for the blood, cleansing it of poisonous materials and retaining valuable glucose, salts and minerals. Urine, the waste product of the filtration, is produced in the kidney and trickles down hours a day through two 10- to 12-inch long tubes called ureters, which connect the kidneys to the bladder. The ureters are about one-fourth inch in diameter and their muscular walls contract to make waves of movement to force the urine into the bladder. The bladder is expandable and stores the urine until it can be conveniently disposed of. It also closes passageways into the ureters so that urine cannot flow back into the kidneys. The tube through which the urine flows out of the body is called the urethra.

What is urinary diversion?

Urinary diversion is a term used when the bladder is removed or the normal structures are being bypassed and an opening is made in the urinary system to divert urine. The flow of urine is diverted through an opening in the abdominal wall. Individuals who might require urinary diversion would be those whose bladders were non-functional or needed to be removed either because of cancer or injury. 

What are the types of urinary diversion?

Urinary diversions may be divided into two types, continent and non-continent. Non-continent urinary diversions involve connecting the ureters to a segment of intestine and then bringing the intestine to the surface of the abdomen. The patient then wears an ostomy bag into which the urine continuously drains, but they are still able to participate in strenuous physical activity in addition to daily routines.

The second form of urinary diversion — continent urinary diversion — is subdivided into two basic types. Those that have a surgical opening brought out of the abdomen and those in which a replacement bladder is made out of part of the intestine. Those with a new bladder are able to urinate spontaneously whereas those patients with a surgical opening need to place a tube into the opening periodically to drain the accumulated urine. The advantage of the two types of continent urinary diversion is that no permanent ostomy bag needs to be worn.  

What can be expected after a urinary diversion?

Problems with urinary diversions do occur and may include: alterations in fluid and/or salt balance; difficulties in inserting the tube in those with surgical openings in the abdomen; problems with the skin growing over the surgical opening and general complications that might occur as a result of the abdominal operation — bowel obstruction, urine leakage and bowel leakage. In general, however, urinary diversions are tolerated extremely well. Patient satisfaction is very high and most patients are rehabilitated to normal activity and a normal lifestyle.

Frequently asked questions:

Can I wear normal clothing if I have an ostomy bag?

Most individuals are able to wear their entire wardrobe.

Will I be on a special diet?

Yes, probably. Follow your doctor's orders regarding nutrition at each stage of your adjustment.



Reviewed January 2011

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Urinary Diversion Glossary
  • abdomen: Also referred to as the belly. It is the part of the body that contains all of the internal structures between the chest and the pelvis.

  • abdominal: in the abdomen, the cavity of this part of the body containing the stomach, intestines and bladder.

  • bladder: The bladder is a thick muscular balloon-shaped pouch in which urine is stored before being discharged through the urethra.

  • bowel: Another word for intestines or colon.

  • cancer: An abnormal growth that can invade nearby structures and spread to other parts of the body and may be a threat to life.

  • contract: To shrink or become smaller.

  • gene: The basic unit capable of transmitting characteristics from one generation to the next.

  • glucose: A simple sugar produced in animals by the conversion of carbohydrates, proteins and fats.

  • intestine: The part of the digestive system between the stomach and the anus that digests and absorbs food and water.

  • ions: Electrically charged atoms.

  • kidney: One of two bean-shaped organs that filter wastes from the blood and discharge these waste products in urine. The kidneys are located on either side at the level of the 12th ribs toward the back. The kidneys send urine to the bladder through tubes called ureters.

  • kidneys: One of two bean-shaped organs that filter wastes from the blood and discharge these waste products in urine. The kidneys are located on either side at the level of the 12th ribs toward the back. The kidneys send urine to the bladder through tubes called ureters.

  • obstruction: something that obstructs, blocks, or closes up with an obstacle

  • ostomy: A surgical procedure such as a colostomy or ileostomy, in which an artificial opening for excreting waste matter is created.

  • ostomy bag: Bag that collects urine draining from an artificial opening into the urinary or gastrointestinal canal.

  • stage: Classification of the progress of a disease.

  • ureter: One of two tubes that carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder.

  • ureters: Pair of tubes that carry urine from each kidney to the bladder.

  • ureters: Tubes that carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder.

  • urethra: A tube that carries urine from the bladder to the outside of the body. In males, the urethra serves as the channel through which semen is ejaculated and it extends from the bladder to the tip of the penis. In females, the urethra is much shorter than in males.

  • urinary: Relating to urine.

  • urinary diversion: A term used when the bladder is removed or the normal structures are being bypassed and an opening is made in the urinary system to divert urine. The flow of urine is diverted through an opening in the abdominal wall.

  • urinary tract: The system that takes wastes from the blood and carries them out of the body in the form of urine. Passageway from the kidneys to the ureters, bladder and urethra.

  • urinate: To release urine from the bladder to the outside. Also referred to as void.

  • urine: Liquid waste product filtered from the blood by the kidneys, stored in the bladder and expelled from the body through the urethra by the act of urinating (voiding). About 96 percent of which is water and the rest waste products.

  • urology: Branch of medicine concerned with the urinary tract in males and females and with the genital tract and reproductive system of males.

Urinary Diversion Anatomical Drawings

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