What is included in the neurological exam for urinary incontinence?

Updated: Jan 22, 2021
  • Author: Sandip P Vasavada, MD; Chief Editor: Edward David Kim, MD, FACS  more...
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Because neurologic disorders can cause or exacerbate urinary incontinence, a focused neurologic examination should be a part of every incontinence evaluation.

Much information can be gained from simple conversation with the patient (eg, mental status) and observation of gait (eg, CNS, spinal cord, peripheral nervous system disease). Any abnormalities should prompt more in-depth investigations. Strength, sensation, and deep tendon reflexes of the lower extremities should be tested.

Sensation of the perineum and perianal area should be tested with a soft touch and light prick. Using a cotton swab, the anal wink pelvic floor reflex can be elicited by stroking laterally to the anal canal. The bulbocavernosus reflex can be elicited by gently tapping the clitoris with a cotton swab in the female patient.

The presence of these perineal reflexes ensures that a significant pudendal neuropathy does not exist. The absence of these reflexes does not diagnose neuropathy but merely raises suspicion. These reflexes may be extinguished if the patient is anxious during the examination.

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