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An ureterocele is a congenital abnormality. It is a ballooning of the ureter at the bladder level. This ballooning can cause an obstruction that prevents urine from draining from the kidney, through the ureter, and into the bladder.
Ureteroceles are most often associated with duplex collecting system, instead of a single collecting system. A duplex collecting system is when there are two ureters draining from both the upper and lower segments of a kidney into the bladder. The ureterocele usually occurs only in one of the ureters, the ureter draining the upper part of the kidney. A single collecting system has a single ureter draining the kidney.
The cause of ureteroceles is unknown and there is no known prevention for this condition.
Ureteroceles run in families, so there is a genetic component.
Learn about the Department of Pediatric Urology at Children’s Hospital Colorado.
Usually an ureterocele has no symptoms. It is often detected prenatally, before the child is born. However, patients suffering from urinary tract infections caused by ureteroceles can experience flank pain, painful urination, irritability, fussiness, fever and/or foul-smelling urine.
A ureterocele can often be diagnosed pre-birth by a prenatal ultrasound; however, it may not be identified until the child has a urinary tract infection and imaging such as a renal ultrasound or VCUG is performed.
If your child is diagnosed prenatally, you may contact Children's Hospital Colorado Urology Department prior to, or immediately after, your child’s birth. If your child is not diagnosed at birth and has multiple urinary tract infections, contact the Urology Department for further evaluation at the recommendation of your primary care physician.
The diagnosis is usually made prenatally and confirmed postnatally with a renal ultrasound scan. Once diagnosed, it is usually necessary to perform a VCUG to look for reflux of urine, which commonly occurs in patients with an ureterocele. In addition, a MAG 3 renogram (a special scan of the kidneys) is needed to evaluate the function in the kidney and how well each part of the kidney is working.
Treatment of an ureterocele is dependent on the child’s age, overall health, medical history and extent of the condition. Treatment options can include a minimally-invasive surgery which decompresses the ureterocele or removes the ureterocele sac entirely. More extensive surgery may be necessary if function of the kidney has been reduced.
At Children’s Hospital Colorado, we have experts in fetal medicine who can diagnose ureteroceles early in pregnancy and ensure the most appropriate care. Once the diagnosis is confirmed following delivery, we have experts who are actively involved in both the care of children with this condition and performing research to ensure that care continues to improve.