Feline Perineal Urethrostomy: A Novel Approach
World Small Animal Veterinary Association Congress Proceedings, 2018
H.B. Seim
Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, USA

Key Points

  • Patients with cystic and urethral calculi present with stranguria
  • Retropulsion of urethral calculi into the urinary bladder simplifies management of urethral calculi
  • Aggressive lavage of the urethra and bladder should be performed during cystotomy
  • Permanent urethrostomy is an acceptable method of managing chronic stone formers

Definition: Cystic and urethral calculi have various compositions (i.e., oxalate, struvite, urate) and may be present in the urinary bladder or lodged in the urethra, respectively. They may be multiple or single, may cause partial or complete obstruction (i.e., urethral), and may require surgical manipulation for removal.


Clinical Presentation

Signalment: There is no age, sex or breed predisposition.

History: Patients generally present with a history of urinary obstruction and/or signs of urinary tract infection. Common complaints include difficulty urinating, straining to urinate, hematuria, blood tinged urine in the litter pan, and/or a distended abdomen. Patients that present several days after complete obstruction may have a distended and painful abdomen and a history of anuria. These patients may be so compromised that they present in shock.

Clinical signs: The most frequently reported clinical signs in patients with cystic and urethral calculi include unproductive straining to urinate, blood tinged urine seen in the litter pan, hematuria, and/or pollakiuria. Severity of clinical signs may vary with the degree of urethral obstruction and duration of obstruction prior to presentation. Patients with complete obstruction for several days may show signs of post-renal azotemia (i.e., severe depression, recumbent, shocky).

Physical examination: Abdominal palpation may reveal a full urinary bladder; occasionally, calculi within the bladder may be palpable. Patients with severe clinical signs (i.e., presented several days after complete obstruction) may show azotemia, shock, and/or severe depression. Abdominal palpation generally reveals a large, turgid urinary bladder and may result in discomfort to the patient.

Laboratory findings: Results of a complete blood count and serum chemistry profile are generally normal in patients presenting acutely; urinalysis may show evidence of urinary tract infection and and/or crystalluria. Patients presenting after several days of complete obstruction may have significant changes in their biochemical profile including increased BUN, increased creatinine, metabolic acidosis, and severe electrolyte abnormalities. Urine is generally grossly hemorrhagic and urinalysis may show signs of urinary tract infection and crystalluria.

Radiography: Survey radiographs may show presence of radiodense calculi in the urethra and/or urinary bladder as well as a distended urinary bladder. Occasionally, radiolucent calculi occur and can only be visualized using retrograde contrast cystourethrography. Careful radiographic evaluation of the kidneys and ureters should be done to rule out renal and ureteral calculi.

Ultrasonographic examination of the bladder, ureters, and kidneys may be helpful in diagnosis of cystic, ureteral, or renal calculi.

Differential diagnosis: Any disorder causing urinary obstruction, including urethral neoplasia, granulomatous urethritis, urethral stricture, and urethral trauma. Definitive diagnosis is based on clinical signs, inability to pass a catheter, and evidence of calculi on survey or contrast radiographs.

Medical Management

Immediate care: In animals with complete obstruction long enough to cause azotemia, temporary urinary diversion is provided by performing a prepubic cystostomy (see technique described below) or frequent cystocentesis (i.e, tid to qid). Azotemia is treated with crystalloid IV therapy prior to calculus removal.

Urethral catheterization of a female cat:

  • Female urethral catheterization is easier than male
  • Use a closed ended tom cat catheter
  • Ventral recumbency is recommended
  • Pass the catheter with no evidence of resistance

Retrograde Hydropulsion of Lodged Urethral Calculi

Calculus removal: Retrograde hydropulsion: This technique should result in an 80–85% success rate for retropulsing urethral calculi into the urinary bladder!

Thoroughly mix 20 cc of sterile saline and 5 cc of Surgilube or K-Y Jelly in a 35 cc syringe and attach the syringe to a 3.5–5.0 French soft rubber catheter/feeding tube.

Anesthetize the patient, extrude the penis and pass the lubricated urinary catheter in the urethra up to and against the calculus. Place a dry gauze sponge around the extruded tip of the penis and occlude the penis around the catheter by squeezing it with thumb and finger.

Using a back and forth action on the catheter, simultaneously inject the saline/lubricant mix under extreme pressure.

<![if !supportLists]>1.  <![endif]>During injection, the calculi and urethra are lubricated by the saline/lubricant mix while the viscosity of the mixture (i.e., K-Y jelly and saline) encourages the calculus to dislodge and become retropulsed into the urinary bladder.

<![if !supportLists]>2.  <![endif]>This technique is attempted, and generally successful, regardless of how many stones are in the urethra and no matter where they are lodged.

If the above technique fails, use a stiffer catheter (i.e., open or closed ended tomcat catheter) and repeat the above maneuvers. Use care when manipulating these stiffer catheters against the calculus.

Surgical Treatment

The objective of surgical treatment is to remove all retropulsed calculi from the urinary bladder and any remaining urethral calculi that were unable to be retropulsed. Bladder calculi are removed via cystotomy, urethral calculi are removed via urethrotomy, and patients that are frequent stone formers may benefit form a permanent urethrostomy to allow continual passage of small urethral calculi.

Preoperative management: Patients that present acutely can be anesthetized immediately and retropulsion attempted (see above described technique). If urinary tract infection is suspected, preoperative treatment with antibiotics may be instituted.

Patients that present after several days of complete obstruction should be treated medically until the azotemia resolves, blood gas abnormalities resolve, and electrolytes return to normal. The patients’ electrocardiogram should be monitored if hyperkalemia is present preoperatively. Medical treatment may consist of intravenous fluids, systemic antibiotics, continuous ECG monitoring, and bladder decompression. Bladder decompression may be accomplished via multiple cystocentesis (i.e., TID or QID), or placement of an antepubic cystostomy tube (described in detail below).

Anesthesia: Routine general anesthesia is performed in patients that present acutely without signs of azotemia. Azotemic, shocky patients with moderate to severe biochemical abnormalities should be treated as described above until these abnormalities return to normal.

Surgical anatomy: The male feline penile urethra consists of urethral mucosa (i.e., urothelium) surrounded by corpus cavernosum urethra, which is in turn surrounded by tunica albuginea. Because of the blood filled corpus cavernosum urethra and the tough fibrous connective tissue tunica albuginea, the urethra can withstand tremendous pressure (e.g., as with aggressive retropulsion) without the fear of urethral rupture.

The urinary bladder consists of the following layers; serosa, muscular, submucosa and mucosa. The bladder is lined with transitional epithelium.

Positioning: Patients are positioned in dorsal recumbency for retropulsion, cystostomy tube placement and routine cystotomy.

Urethrostomy: Urethrostomy is generally performed in patients that are recurrent stone formers. It provides a permanent opening that is large enough to accommodate passage of most urethral calculi, crystals and mucoid debris.

Perineal urethrostomy; perineal approach: The perineal urethra is the location of choice for urethrostomy in cats. It is a convenient location for surgical manipulation, the urethral diameter will accommodate passage of most urethral calculi and there is less urine scald postoperatively.

Prior to surgery a urethral catheter is passed, if possible. After a routine castration, an elliptical incision is made around the scrotum and penis. Then the subcutaneous tissues are dissected to expose penile urethra. The penile urethra is dissected free from surrounding connective tissue. The ventral attachment of the pelvic urethral to the pubis (i.e., ischiocavernosus m.) is identified and transected. The penile urethra is freed from its connective tissue attachments to the pelvic floor using blunt digital dissection. The retractor penis muscle is identified on the dorsal aspect of the penis and is dissected from its attachment on the penis. The dissected retractor penis muscle is then used to develop the dorsal plane of dissection to separate the pelvic urethra from its dorsal connective tissue attachments. Once the urethra is dissected enough to visualize the dorsolaterally located bulbourethral glands penile dissection can stop. The penis is catheterized and the urethral orifice identified. An incision is made from the penile urethra to the pelvic urethral to the level of the bulbourethral glands using a Stevens tenotomy scissor or Iris scissor. The urethral orifice at the level of the bulbourethral glands is generally of large enough diameter to accept the flange of a tomcat catheter.

After incision of the urethra, the glistening urethral mucosa is identified. 5-0 nonabsorbable monofilament suture with a swaged on cutting or taper-cut needle is recommended by the author. The first urethrostomy suture is placed at the dorsal aspect of the urethrotomy incision on the right or left side at a 45° angle to include urethral mucosa and skin (suture split thickness of skin).

The suture is tied and cut leaving the ends 3–4 cm long to act as a stay suture. A mosquito hemostat is placed on this suture to provide traction and countertraction to enhance visualization of the urethral mucosa. The second suture is placed opposite the first suture and tied as described for the first. A stay suture is also placed here. A third urethrostomy suture is placed directly on the dorsal midline to hold the dorsal margin of urethral mucosa to the dorsal margin of the skin incision. Alternating sutures from dorsal to ventral are placed until approximately one half of the penile urethra has been sutured to skin. The remainder of the penis is amputated and the subcutaneous tissue and skin are closed routinely. Fine ophthalmic instruments make tissue handling and suturing easier. Use of a 2x magnifying loupe and headlamp light source enhances visualization of the urethral mucosa and facilitates accurate suturing. It is critical for the surgeon to recognize the glistening urethral mucosa and carefully suture it to skin. This will decrease (or eliminate) the chance of urethral stricture.

Perineal urethrostomy; dorsal approach: Perineal urethrostomy can be performed with the patient placed in dorsal recumbency. This positioning is more ergonomic for the surgeon and allows easy access of the urinary bladder for concurrent cystotomy. When positioning the cat tie the hind limbs cranially until the pelvis is slightly elevated off the surgery table. Place a folded towel under the pelvis to support this slightly elevated position. The surgical technique is as described above for the perineal urethrostomy performed using a perineal approach.

Postoperative Care and Assessment

Perineal Urethrostomy: An Elizabethan collar should be considered, especially in patients that may be prone to self-mutilation. Patients should be kept quiet and away from other animals. An indwelling urinary catheter placed routinely postoperatively is not necessary following an uncomplicated urethrostomy.


The prognosis for surgical management of urethral and cystic calculi is dependent upon preoperative management of azotemic patients prior to anesthesia, success of retropulsion of urethral stones into the urinary bladder, care in removing all stones via cystotomy, and care of ensuring urethral mucosa to skin apposition during urethrostomy.

Patients that have successful retropulsion of urethral calculi and do not require urethrostomy have an excellent prognosis. If careful attention is paid during cystotomy to ensure that no calculi are left behind (see discussion on cystotomy technique), the prognosis for cure is excellent. Long term prognosis is dependent on evaluation of calculus composition, dietary management, management of urinary tract infection, and attention to urine pH.

Patients that have an elective perineal urethrostomy have a favorable prognosis if attention is paid to proper surgical technique (i.e., urethral mucosa is sutured to skin). Occasionally, chronic stone forming patients will form a calculus that is too large to pass through the urethrostomy stoma.


Speaker Information
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H.B. Seim
Colorado State University
Fort Collins, CO, USA

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