Ureteroceles are birth defects that happen during the prenatal period. The ends of the ureter that enter the bladder do not develop properly. The ureterocele blocks the flow of urine. The defect can be found before birth. Treatment depends on when the defect is discovered.


What is a ureterocele?

A ureterocele is a birth defect that affects the kidney, ureters (the tubes that carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder) and bladder. A ureterocele blocks the flow of urine which causes swelling at the bottom of the affected ureter.


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Symptoms and Causes

What causes a ureterocele?

A ureterocele forms during the prenatal period when the end of ureter that enters the bladder does not develop properly.

What are the symptoms of a ureterocele?

Ureteroceles often do not have any symptoms, unless the condition has resulted in a urinary tract infection (UTI). Symptoms of a UTI include:

  • Painful urination and/or burning feeing while urinating.
  • Bad-smelling urine.
  • Pain and/or a lump in the abdominal area.
  • Blood in the urine.
  • Fever.
  • Urinating often.
  • Urinary incontinence (inability to hold urine).
  • Not being able to empty the bladder.

Contact your healthcare provider if you notice any of these symptoms in your child.


Diagnosis and Tests

How is a ureterocele diagnosed?

Ureteroceles may be diagnosed during an ultrasound before a baby is born. The swollen ureter and kidney may be visible during the procedure.

Ureteroceles are most often found in children ages 2 or younger. However, the condition can be found in older children and adults who may be suffering from kidney stones or a urinary tract infection. Your provider may order any of these tests:

  • An ultrasound of the kidneys and bladder.
  • A test of the bladder called a voiding cystourethrogram (VCUG).
  • A renal scan to evaluate kidney function.
  • CT scans and MRIs to view the bladder and kidneys.
  • A urine test to check for a urinary tract infection.

Management and Treatment

How is a ureterocele treated?

Treatment for a ureterocele depends on when it is identified. If a ureterocele is identified in the prenatal period, treatment may include antibiotics. A minor procedure called a ureterocele puncture may also be done to correct the condition soon after birth, or while your child is still an infant. This involves passing a small camera into the bladder through the urethra and puncturing the ureterocele.

In older children or adults, treatment can range from observation to reconstructive urinary tract surgery. Your care provider will advise you on the best course of treatment.


Living With

What are the risks of a ureterocele?

If left untreated, a ureterocele can damage the bladder and kidneys.

Risks include:

  • Urinary retention.
  • Urinary tract infection.
  • Kidney stones that cannot be passed.

A note from Cleveland Clinic

It may be a little scary to hear that your child has a birth defect called a ureterocele. However, the prognosis (outlook) for a ureterocele is good. A ureterocele can be treated and your child can go on to live a normal life. Treatment is also possible if the defect is not discovered until adulthood.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 11/06/2020.

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