What is it?
Urethral soundings are a procedure used to determine if a person has a congenital or acquired condition which may cause them to have difficulty with passing urine when they urinate. A urethral examination is performed on a patient who has not had one before. The doctor will insert a thin tube called a catheter into the bladder so that they can see inside the urethra (the tube from your kidneys to your pee hole). They then use special instruments to listen for sounds made by urine as it leaves the body. If these sounds indicate that something is wrong, treatment may be needed.
Is it Safe?
Yes! Urine soundings are considered to be very safe procedures. There have been no known cases of death due to urethral soundings. In fact, there have only been two reported deaths due to other medical procedures: one was related to surgery for cancer and another was caused by a heart attack during surgery for diabetes. However, both of those patients were older than 50 years old when they died. So don’t worry too much about having a “sound” taken if you’re a bit nervous about it.
How does it feel?
The sound is about the same diameter as a pencil, but much longer. The part that they put in your urethra doesn’t hurt at all, but the sound can be cold since it’s metal. When a doctor listens to your bladder, it may feel like you have to go pee REALLY bad. That’s when they can take the sound out. The sensation of having your bladder emptied may feel weird at first, but you’ll get used to it.
Are there any Benefits?
Some people say that having a catheter in your bladder feels like a constant urge to pee. Others say that the catheter fills up your bladder and stretches it so that you have to pee more often. However, this stretching doesn’t last very long. Most people return to normal after a day or two.
Is it safe?
Yes, as long as you don’t have a medical condition that would prevent the procedure, urethral soundings are very safe. There is a minor risk of the catheter getting accidentally pushed into your bladder, but this risk exists with all types of catheters. And if this does happen, it’s not a big deal. Catheters are designed to be easily pushed through the bladder so that doctors can drain it.
What are the Risks?
While rare, there is a possibility of injuries during the procedure. If the doctor misses the bladder and pushes the catheter into the tube between your bladder and your kidneys (called the ureter), then fluid may leak into your abdomen. If this happens, you may need surgery to have the fluid drained out. There have also been cases of infection with catheters, so tell your doctor if you experience any unusual pains or smells coming from your urine.
Are there any Alternatives?
If you don’t want to get a catheter, there are alternatives such as giving yourself regular injections of water. You can also try a pump, which is like a Foley bulb except that it’s automatic and sits under your skin like a mat. However, most people prefer catheters because they are easier to use.
What else do I need to know?
If you’re a diabetic, then you may already have a large incision in your belly to give doctors easier access to your internal organs. If this is the case, then you won’t need to get another incision. Instead, the doctor will make a smaller cut into your bladder to insert the catheter.
The most important thing to remember about having a catheter is to keep the area around your urethra clean so that you lower your risk of getting a bladder infection. If you do develop an infection, antibiotics can treat it. If the infection is severe, you may need to have your catheter removed.
What about women or children?
While this article has focused on men, women and children also get catheters inserted into their bladders for medical reasons. The procedure is similar in that a small tube is put into the bladder through the urethra. However, women and children may need a little more preparation before the catheter is inserted.
Sources & references used in this article:
Recreational urethral sounding is associated with high risk sexual behaviour and sexually transmitted infections by BN Breyer, AW Shindel – BJU international, 2012 – Wiley Online Library
Urine dipstick testing: everything you need to know by JR Roberts – Emergency Medicine News, 2007 – cdn.journals.lww.com
Clinical research in diabetes and urinary incontinence: what we know and need to know by S Phelan, F Grodstein, JS Brown – The Journal of urology, 2009 – Elsevier
Sound of the Penis: Secrecy, Sex, and Stigma by J Richards – 1999 – Chronicle Books