(VUR; Reflux Nephropathy; Chronic Atrophic Pyelonephritis; Vesico-Ureteric Reflux; Ureteral Reflux)
Vesicoureteral reflux (VUR) is the backward flow of urine. The urine flows from the bladder back into the kidney.
Urine normally flows from the kidneys. It passes through tubes called ureters. It then flows into the bladder. Each ureter connects to the bladder in a way that prevents urine from flowing back up the ureter. The connection is similar to a one-way valve. When this does not work properly, or if the ureters do not extend far enough into the bladder, urine may flow back up to the kidney. If the urine contains bacteria, the kidney may become infected. The back up can also put extra pressure on the kidney, causing damage or kidney failure.
Anatomy of the Urinary System
VUR may be caused by:
- A problem in the way the ureter inserts into the bladder
- A ureter that does not extend far enough into the bladder
- A bladder outlet obstruction, such as a blockage of urine flow from an enlarged prostate gland
- A neurogenic bladder—loss of normal bladder function due to damaged nerves reaching the bladder
- Temporary swelling after a kidney transplant
Factors that may increase your chance of VUR include:
- Family history
- Urinary tract defects that are present at birth
- Birth defects that affect the spinal cord, such as spina bifida
- Tumors in the spinal cord or pelvis
- Spinal cord injury
- Frequent and urgent need to urinate
- Passing small amounts of urine
- Pain in the abdomen or pelvic area
- Burning sensation during urination
- Cloudy, bad-smelling urine
- Increased need to get up at night to urinate
- Blood in the urine
- Leaking urine
- Low back pain or pain along the side of the ribs
- Fever and chills
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
Tests may include:
- Blood tests
- Urine tests
The urinary tract can be evaluated with imaging tests, which may include:
- CT scan
- Voiding cystourethrogram (VCUG)
- Intravenous pyelogram
- Nuclear scans
The goal for treatment of VUR is to prevent any permanent kidney damage. Treatment options include the following:
Endoscopic Injection Into the Ureter
This procedure is a minimally invasive surgery. It is done to correct the reflux. A gel is injected where the ureter inserts into the bladder. This can prevent urine from going back up the ureter. This procedure is done through a small tube called a cystoscope.
This surgery repositions the ureters in the bladder. It can be done in two ways. One way requires making an incision above the pubic bone and repositioning the ureters in the bladder. It can also be done laparoscopically by inserting cameras through small incisions in the abdomen and/or bladder to perform the surgery.
VUR cannot be prevented in most cases. However, further complications can be avoided. Seek prompt treatment for bladder or kidney infections. This is particularly important if you have a neurogenic bladder.
National Kidney Foundation
Urology Care Foundation
The Kidney Foundation of Canada
Valla JS, Steyaert H, et al. Transvesicoscopic Cohen ureteric reimplantation for vesicoureteral reflux in children: A single-centre 5-year experience. J Pediatr Urol. 2009;5(6):466-471.
Vesicoureteral reflux. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated March 15, 2013. Accessed July 16, 2013.
Vesicoureteral reflux. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website. Available at: http://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-topics/urologic-disease/vesicoureteral-reflux-vur/Pages/facts.aspx. Updated June 29, 2012. Accessed July 16, 2013.
Last reviewed May 2015 by Adrienne Carmack, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.