Bladder and Bowel Injury terms

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CLMedilaw Insights

Bladder and Bowel Injury Jargon Buster

If you or someone you know has been affected by a bladder or bowel injury, you will come across a wide range of terms you have not previously or that you do not quite understand. Here we provide definitions and explanations for many of the terms you’re likely to encounter as you seek treatment in relation to your bowel and bladder injury. It may be that your doctors or medical professional use terms which you haven’t heard of before, so we have prepared a helpful guide of some common terms that might be used.

Our team of expert solicitors work closely with people who have suffered bladder or bowel injuries arising out of medical negligence or personal injury. We are dedicated to changing the lives of our clients by making legal matters as straight forward as possible and securing early provision of support to really make a difference to the families we represent.


Absorbent Products

Pads and garments, either disposable or reusable, worn to contain urine. Absorbent products include shields, guards, undergarment pads, combination pad-pant systems and bed pads.

Anticholinergic Agents

Drugs that can cause or contribute to incontinence by inducing constipation with chronic retention of urine. An example of anticholinergic medication is a muscle relaxant. These agents are recommended often for individuals’ incontinence.


Bladder Retraining

Bladder retraining is an education program that teaches the person to restore a normal pattern of urination by setting scheduled times to achieve longer time intervals between urination.


Cauda Equina Syndrome

A rare and severe type of spinal stenosis (narrowing) where all the nerve in the lower back suddenly become severely compressed. Symptoms include: sciatica on both sides. weakness or numbness in both legs that is severe or getting worse. numbness around or under your genitals, or around your anus.


Removal of the entire colon (the longest part of your large intestine)


A test to look inside your bowels. Checks will be made to look for changes such as swollen, irritated tissue, polyps or cancer.

Difficulty opening your bowels


The ability to exercise voluntary control over the urge to urinate or open your bowels until an appropriate time and place can be found.


A condition associated with inflammation of the bladder wall and the development of ulcers in the lining of the bladder, leading to decreased bladder capacity and hypersensitivity of the bladder. It is often accompanied by abdominal pain as the bladder fills, a need to urinate frequently, and relief of pain after urinating, with no signs of infection.


An examination of the bladder using x-ray dye to show the structure and shape of the bladder.



A condition in which the kidneys filter too much urine.


Sometimes called water pills. An agent that promotes the production of urine.


Abnormal discomfort or pain and a burning or smarting sensation accompanying urination.



The involuntary loss of urine during sleep. This term is most often applied to night time bed-wetting in children.

External Catheter

External systems are devices made from latex rubber, polyvinyl, or silicone and used primarily in men. The catheters are secured by a double-sided adhesive, latex, or foam strap that encircles the penis and are connected to urinary collecting bags by a tube. These catheters are disposable and can be applied and removed by the person using them.


Faecal incontinence

Also known as bowel incontinence, is an inability to control bowel movements.

Functional incontinence

An inability to reach the toilet in time because of the difficulties caused by physical or mental illness, or environmental barriers.


An abnormally frequent desire to void, often of only small quantities.



Removal of half of the colon (the longest part of the large intestine)


Blood in the urine. Renal haematuria refers to blood that comes from the kidney. Urethral haematuria refers to blood that comes from the urethra. Vesical haematuria refers to blood that comes from the bladder itself.


Difficulty starting the urine stream. Represented by an increase in the length of time between initiation of urination by relaxation of the urethral sphincter and when the urine stream actually begins.


Any exaggeration of reflexes. In urinary incontinence, it represents an involuntary muscle contraction resulting from a neurological disorder.



An opening in the small bowel (small intestine) that is diverted through an opening in the abdomen. The opening is known as a stoma.

Indwelling Catheter

An indwelling catheter is inserted in the same way as an intermittent catheter, but the catheter is left in place. The catheter is held in place by a water-filled balloon, which prevents it falling out. These types of catheters are often known as Foley catheters.

Intermittent Catheterisation

The regular insertion of a clean, straight catheter into the bladder to allow the urine to drain freely. Once the bladder is emptied, the catheter is removed. This may be necessary in people who do not empty the bladder completely (urinary retention).

Intestinal Obstruction

A blockage that keeps food or liquid from passing through your small intestine or large intestine (colon).



The passage of urine, or urination.


Neurogenic Bladder

Where the muscles don’t fully contract in the bladder associated with a neurological condition such as diabetes, stroke, or spinal cord injury. May be referred to as reflex urinary incontinence.


Excessive urination at night. Awakening at night by the need to go for a wee.


Overactive Bladder

Refers collectively to classic urge incontinence in combination with going for a wee frequently and needing to go urgently.


Pelvic Floor Muscles

Muscles that give you the ability to control the release of urine and faeces, as well as wind, and to delay emptying until it is convenient. When you contract the muscles, they lift the internal organs, tightening the opening of the anus and urethra. Relaxing the muscles allows passage of urine and faeces.

Pelvic Muscle Rehabilitation

A rehabilitation program that involves strengthening the pelvic floor muscle. Pelvic muscle exercises often called Kegel exercises, consist of repeated, contractions of the pelvic floor muscle.

Perineal Trauma

The perineum is the space between the anus and the vulva in a female. Perineal trauma is any type of damage to the female genitalia during labour which can occur spontaneously, or induced unintentionally or intentionally by a doctor, such as an instrumental delivery or via an episiotomy.


Sacral nerves

The brain tells the bowel and bladder what to do by sending electrical signals to the muscles in the pelvic floor, the sphincters and the urethra. Through a series of reflexes and signals, the nerves in the bladder and bowel are coordinated with the pelvic floor muscles and urethral and anal sphincters to store urine and bowel contents until there is an appropriate place to go to the toilet. If someone has damaged their sacral nerves, this can lead to a lack of control of bowels or bladder.


A ring-like band of muscle fibers that closes a natural opening. Tightening the urethral sphincter controls the urge to urinate. Tightening of the anal sphincter controls the urge to open your bowels. Both the anus and the urethra have sphincters, whose muscle tone is key to preventing leakage and maintaining faecal and urinary continence, respectively.


Where a piece of bowel is brought onto the tummy through a small opening. Waste material is passed through this stoma into a bag. If the colon is connected to the abdominal wall, it is called a colostomy. It the small bowel is connected to the abdominal wall, it is called an ileostomy. The stoma may be temporary or permanent.

Suprapubic Catheter

A type of catheter that is left in place. Rather than being inserted through the urethra, the catheter is inserted through a hole in the abdomen and then directly into the bladder.



A canal in which urine from the bladder is passed to the exterior of the body.

Urge Incontinence

An intense desire to go for a wee immediately. It often accompanies going for a wee often.


A surgeon who specialises in the urinary conditions of men and women.


Vaginal Tears

Vaginal tears during childbirth, also called perineal lacerations or tears, occur when the baby’s head is coming through the vaginal opening and is either too large for the vagina to stretch around or the head is a normal size but the vagina doesn’t stretch easily. These kinds of tears are relatively common.

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