Evaluation of female lower urinary tract symptoms: overview and update

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Abstract

Female lower urinary tract symptoms are nonspecific, and a thorough clinical evaluation is required to establish the correct diagnosis. Such evaluation should consist of a structured micturition history or questionnaire, physical examination with full bladder, micturition diary, pad test and urodynamic evaluation. The urodynamic evaluation should consist at least of cystometry, detrusor pressure/uroflow study, simple (‘free’) uroflowmetry, assessment of the relative contribution of urethral hypermobility and intrinsic sphincter deficiency, and estimation of postvoid residual urine by ultrasound or catheterization. Recent studies regarding the role of pad tests, micturition diaries and urodynamic studies in the evaluation of female voiding dysfunction are presented. Factors that are associated with the use of transurethral catheter during pressure-flow studies and current controversies regarding the diagnosis of female bladder outlet obstruction are reviewed and discussed. Although the urodynamic study is considered to be the best diagnostic tool in assessment of lower urinary tract function, some practitioners believe that urodynamic evaluation is not routinely warranted and prefer to employ a symptom-based empirical management strategy. Lower urinary tract symptoms are nonspecific, however, and should be used mainly to identify what bothers the patient. Urodynamic studies define the underlying pathophysiology. We believe that treatment of the underlying pathophysiology facilitates better treatment of symptoms.

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