Increased renal echogenicity: A sonographic sign for differentiating between obstructive and nonobstructive etiologies of in utero bladder distension

Martin Kaefer, Craig A Peters, Alan B. Retik, Beryl B. Benacerraf

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

54 Scopus citations


Purpose: The combination of in utero bladder distension and bilateral hydroureteronephrosis in male fetuses may result from a number of pathological processes. The prenatal and postnatal treatment of patients with an enlarged bladder is dictated by the specific etiology leading to these changes. We propose specific ultrasonographic criteria for differentiating between obstructive and nonobstructive etiologies in these fetuses. Materials and Methods: We reviewed the medical records and prenatal imaging studies of 18 cases of marked in utero bladder distension in which a diagnosis of posterior urethral valves, the megacystis-megaureter association or the prune-belly syndrome was confirmed postnatally. Amniotic fluid volume and renal echogenicity were assessed before knowledge of the specific diagnosis. Oligohydramnios was graded as mild, moderate or severe. Increased renal echogenicity was defined as greater echogenicity of the renal cortex and/or medulla than of adjacent liver tissue. Postnatal imaging, clinical course and outcome were also reviewed. Results: The study included 15 cases with adequate followup, including 8 in which a diagnosis of posterior urethral valves was confirmed postnatally. Nonobstructive etiologies included the megacystis-megaureter association in 6 cases and the prune-belly syndrome in 1. Seven of the 8 patients with posterior urethral valves had moderate to severe oligohydramnios, whereas all but 1 with a nonobstructive etiology had normal amniotic fluid. Seven of the 8 cases with posterior urethral valves had a marked bilateral increase in renal echogenicity, while none of the nonobstructive cases had this finding. Conclusions: Increased renal echogenicity and oligohydramnios in the setting of bladder distension are highly predictive (87%) of an obstructive etiology. This finding is important in the prenatal counseling and treatment of boys with bilateral hydronephrosis and marked bladder dilatation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1026-1029
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of Urology
Issue number3 SUPPL.
StatePublished - Jan 1 1997



  • Bladder
  • Bladder neck obstruction
  • Prenatal diagnosis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Urology

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