Urology, also known as genitourinary surgery, is the branch of medicine that focuses on surgical and medical diseases of the male and female urinary tract system and the male reproductive organs. Organs under the domain of urology include the kidneys, adrenal glands, ureters, urinary bladder, urethra, and the male reproductive organs (testes, epididymis, vas deferens, seminal vesicles, prostate, and penis).
The urinary and reproductive tracts are closely linked, and disorders of one often affect the other. Thus a major spectrum of the conditions managed in urology exists under the domain of genitourinary disorders. Urology combines the management of medical (i.e., non-surgical) conditions, such as urinary tract infections and benign prostatic hyperplasia, with the management of surgical conditions such as bladder or prostate cancer, kidney stones, congenital abnormalities, traumatic injury, and stress incontinence.
You should contact a urologist if you have
- Blood in urine
- Painful urination
- Difficulty urinating
- A frequent urge to urinate, even when the bladder is empty
- Urinary incontinence
- Chronic urinary tract infections
- Changes in the frequency of urination
- A weakened urine stream
- Discomfort in the lower abdomen
- Pelvic pain
- Infertility, impotence, or erectile dysfunction in men
Common urological procedures performed include
- Cystoscopy – A procedure that utilizes a cystoscope, a narrow tube that features a lighted tip and a microscope-like lens, to view inside the bladder and urethra. This procedure is often combined with other forms of treatment to address urinary problems.
- Endourology – A minimally invasive procedure used to treat a variety of urologic conditions. In the procedure, a thin telescopic instrument is inserted through a body cavity.
- Laparoscopic surgery – Another one of the minimally invasive urology procedures, this surgical treatment involves using a laparoscope – a tiny telescope attached to a camera – and long miniaturized instruments inserted through small incisions.
- Lithotripsy – A procedure to break apart kidney stones, gallbladder stones, and other types of stones through high-energy shockwaves.
- Microwave therapy – A procedure used to shrink excess prostate tissue with microwaves, which are delivered through a small antenna attached to a catheter.
- Pelvic floor physical therapy – A regimen of mild exercises and non-invasive therapies to treat pelvic floor dysfunction and pain.
- Percutaneous nephrolithotomy – A procedure performed when a stone is located in a confined area or is too large to be removed through lithotripsy. In this surgery, a tube is inserted through a small incision in the lower back and used to remove the stone.
- Radiofrequency ablation – A procedure that destroys cancerous cells in renal tumors with localized electrodes that deliver gentle, painless energy.
- Robot-assisted surgeries
- Sacral neuromodulation – A procedure, also referred to as InterStim, to implant a small device that emits small pulses to nerves that influence the behavior of the bladder and bowel. Such urology procedures are performed for patients diagnosed with bladder and bowel incontinence.
- Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation/neuromodulation – A procedure in which a gentle electrical current is administered to select nerves through electrode patches. It is used to treat a variety of conditions, including interstitial cystitis and overactive bladder.
- Ureteroscopy – A procedure to eradicate a stone that is wedged in one of the ureters, the two ducts that deliver urine from the kidneys to the bladder. This is done by breaking the stone into tiny pieces with a laser beam or removing it altogether using a ureteroscope.
- Urodynamic testing – A test used to evaluate bladder function and how well it stores and releases urine.
- Vasectomy – A procedure that makes a male patient sterile by cutting and sealing the vas deferens, the two tubes that carry sperm during ejaculation.
- Vasectomy reversal – A procedure to reopen the vas deferens and reverse the effects of a vasectomy.
- Video urodynamics – A test that uses X-ray images to assess how well the bladder stores and releases urine.
- Botox administration – A medication used to relieve pain and tightness in the pelvic floor muscles.