Because the nerves controlling the bladder attach to the very base of the spinal cord, bladder function is almost always affected by spinal cord injury, regardless of the level at which the injury occurred. When messages can no longer be passed from the bladder muscles to the brain, the bladder is affected in one of two ways:

  • Spastic bladder. This is when the bladder fills with urine, and a reflex causes it to suddenly empty. Spastic bladder usually occurs with the injury is above the T-12 level.
  • Flaccid bladder. The bladder muscles don’t work or become sluggish. Instead of emptying, urine backs up into the kidneys. Treatments include surgery and medications. Flaccid bladder usually occurs with injuries below the T-12 level.

Common Bladder Management Programs

There are three common types of bladder emptying:

  • Intermittent catheterization. A thin, hollow, flexible tube is inserted into the urethra, allowing the urine in the bladder to drain out.
  • Indwelling catheter. A permanent catheter is inserted into the bladder, and a balloon keeps it in place. 
  • External condom catheter. This catheter for me is attached to a condom that keeps the catheter in place and collects urine.

Avoiding Complications

The most common complication related to the bladder is urinary tract infections caused by bacteria. To minimize the chance of a urinary tract infection, the survivor should:

  • Keep personal supplies clean
  • Keep the bladder empty
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Practice proper bladder care techniques
  • See a urologist regularly