Bladder exstrophy


Bladder exstrophy, a rare congenital condition, involves the development of the bladder outside the fetus’s body. The bladder, a balloonshaped organ in the lower abdomen, normally stores urine until it’s time for elimination. However, in bladder exstrophy, the bladder is exposed and unable to function properly, leading to urine leakage, known as incontinence. The severity of bladder exstrophy varies depending on the individual, which can result in potential defects in the bladder, genitals, pelvic bones, intestines, and reproductive organs.  

While routine prenatal ultrasounds can detect bladder exstrophy, there are situations where the defect remains hidden until the baby’s delivery. In cases where infants are born with this condition, bladder exstrophy is treated with reconstructive surgery after birth.  


Bladder exstrophy is one of several birth abnormalities known as the bladder exstrophyepispadias complex (BEEC). Some infants are born with only one form of BEEC. Others suffer from several BEEC disorders. They may have one of the following:  

  • Epispadias: This is the mildest type of BEEC, where the tube that releases urine (urethra) doesn’t completely form.  
  • Bladder exstrophy: This defect leads to the bladder developing outside the body and being inverted. Typically, it involves the urinary tract, as well as the digestive and reproductive systems. This can result in issues with the abdominal wall, bladder, genitals, pelvic bones, the last part of the large intestine (rectum), and the end opening of the rectum (anus). Additionally, children with bladder exstrophy experience vesicoureteral reflux, causing urine to flow in the wrong directionfrom the bladder back up into the tubes connecting to the kidneys (ureters). Epispadias is also commonly present in children with this condition. 
  • Cloacal exstrophy: Cloacal exstrophy represents the most severe type of BEEC. In this condition, during fetal development, the rectum, bladder, and genitals do not fully separate. These organs might not form correctly, and it can also impact the pelvic bones. The kidneys, backbone, and spinal cord might also be affected. Many children with cloacal exstrophy experience spinal abnormalities, often including spina bifida. Babies born with organs protruding from the abdomen probably have cloacal exstrophy or bladder exstrophy. 


The precise cause of bladder exstrophy isn’t known, but experts believe it’s likely due to a combination of factors such as genetics and the environment. What we do understand is that as a baby grows before birth, a part called the cloacawhere the body’s urine, feces, and reproductive parts all converge, doesn’t develop correctly for those with bladder exstrophy. The issues with the cloaca can vary depending on the age of the baby when developmental problems occur. 

Risk factors

There are several factors that contributes to an individuals risk of developing bladder exstrophy, such as:  

  • Family history: There is a higher risk of bladder exstrophy being present at birth in firstborn children, children whose parent has bladder exstrophy, or siblings of a child affected by the condition. Adults who have bladder exstrophy as children have a 1 in 70 chance of having a kid with the disorder.  
  • Race: Bladder exstrophy is more common in the Caucasian population than in other racial groups.
  • Sex: Men are up to three times more likely than women to suffer from bladder exstrophy.