Acute urinary retention among astronauts

Aviat Space Environ Med. 2007 Apr;78(4 Suppl):A5-8.


Although acute urinary retention (AUR) is not commonly thought of as a life-threatening condition, its presentation in orbit can lead to a number of medical complications that could compromise a space mission. We report on a middle-aged astronaut who developed urinary retention during two spaceflights. On the first mission of note, the astronaut initially took standard doses of promethazine and scopolamine before launch, and developed AUR immediately after entering orbit. For the first 3 d, the astronaut underwent intermittent catheterizations with a single balloon-tipped catheter. Due to the lack of iodine solution on board and the need for the astronaut to complete certain duties without interruption, the catheter was left in place for a total of 4 d. Although the ability to void returned after day 7, a bout of AUR reemerged on day 10, 1 d before landing. On return to Earth, a cystometrogram was unremarkable. During the astronaut's next mission, AUR again recurred for the first 24 h of microgravity exposure, and the astronaut was subsequently able to void spontaneously while in space. This report details the presentation of this astronaut, the precautions that were taken for space travel subsequent to the initial episode of AUR, and the possible reasons why space travel can predispose astronauts to urinary retention while in orbit. The four major causes of AUR--obstructive, pharmacologic, psychogenic, and neurogenic-are discussed, with an emphasis on how these may have played a role in this case.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Adult
  • Aerospace Medicine*
  • Astronauts*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Promethazine / therapeutic use
  • Risk Factors
  • Space Flight*
  • United States
  • Urinary Retention / drug therapy*
  • Urinary Retention / etiology
  • Urinary Retention / therapy
  • Weightlessness / adverse effects*


  • Promethazine