Purpose: In 1988 a syndrome of isolated urinary retention in young women that is associated with electromyographic abnormality of the striated urethral sphincter was described. It was hypothesised that urinary retention resulted from a failure of sphincter relaxation. The electromyographic abnormality causes overactivity of the muscle and may induce changes of work hypertrophy. If the hypothesis that the electromyographic abnormality is the cause of urinary retention is correct, we would expect the urethral sphincter to be enlarged and the urethral pressure profile to be increased in these women. We evaluated the role of static urethral pressure profilometry and transvaginal ultrasound in women in urinary retention.
Materials and methods: A total of 66 women in complete or partial urinary retention underwent electromyography of the striated urethral sphincter using a concentric needle electrode, followed by urethral pressure profile and/or urethral sphincter volume measurement by transvaginal ultrasound.
Results: Maximum urethral closure pressure plus or minus standard deviation was significantly increased in patients with versus without the electromyographic abnormality (103 +/- 26.4 versus 76.7 +/- 18.4 cm. water, p <0.001). Maximum urethral sphincter volume was also increased in women with versus without the abnormality (2.29 +/- 0.64 versus 1.62 +/- 0.32 cm.3, p <0.001).
Conclusions: The results of this study are consistent with the hypothesis that a local sphincter abnormality is the cause of urinary retention in a subgroup of women. Urethral pressure profilometry and sphincter volume measurement are useful for assessing these cases, especially when sphincter electromyography is not readily available.