What is a ureterocele?
A ureterocele is a cystic dilation at the end of the ureter that stops or limits urine flow into the bladder. The urine then backs up in the kidney, causing it to swell like a water balloon. This condition affects girls more often than boys and is present at birth.
In normal development, a child has two kidneys, and ureters drain urine from the kidneys to the bladder. Different types of ureteroceles exist, and each has a distinct presentation, causes different concerns and has unique treatments.
Serious complications may occur if the ureterocele isn’t identified and promptly treated.
How are ureteroceles diagnosed?
A routine ultrasound around week 20 of pregnancy may find a ureterocele. If there is evidence of a ureterocele, or other urinary tract abnormality, additional ultrasounds are usually recommended to follow the urinary tract changes. A prenatal consultation with a pediatric urologist, who is a specialist in newborn kidney and urinary tract surgery can be arranged through the Fetal to Newborn Care Center.
After birth, your child’s doctor will order an ultrasound of the urinary tract.
Another common test is the voiding cystourethrogram (VCUG), a procedure in which the child’s bladder is filled with a special fluid. As he or she urinates, the doctor can observe the urine flow and watch for reflux.
If the doctor suspects a child has a duplex kidney, a cystoscopy may help with examination of the urinary tract via a tiny light and camera.
How are ureteroceles treated?
Treatment before birth is limited and not typically recommended. Treatment after birth depends on the size of the ureterocele, kidney problems, and the general health of your child. The Fetal to Newborn Care Center’s team of specialists reviews each case to determine an individualized treatment plan. A nurse navigator helps to coordinate care and answer any questions from the family.
If the ureterocele appears large or there is evidence of significant kidney dilation, surgery may be necessary to drain the ureterocele. A cystoscope (camera) is inserted into the urinary tract and the ureterocele is punctured, causing it to deflate. The process usually takes less than 30 minutes to complete, and the child can often go home the same day.
When open surgery is required, it involves either removing the ureterocele and reattaching the ureter to the bladder or possibly attaching the dilated ureter to the normal sized one. Since this is a full operation, a hospital stay is required.
As the problems resolve, the chance for urinary tract infections may continue; thus, antibiotics may be prescribed for some time.
When a child has reconstructive surgery to reattach the ureters, ultrasounds may be used to monitor kidneys for proper growth and drainage.
How will ureteroceles affect my baby?
The good news is that with appropriate care, the vast majority of children with ureteroceles grow to be healthy and without long-term kidney problems.
Do you have questions about your pregnancy and wonder if our services could be of assistance? Patients may contact our nurse navigator through the email form below or at 844-542-4602 to discuss your unique situation and determine if the Fetal to Newborn Care Center is right for you.