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Bladder Scan vs. Palpation: Ensuring Your Best Bladder Health

by David Smith

| Updated January 11, 2024 |
Numerous examination techniques exist for different health situations, each characterized by distinct methodologies and effectiveness.

For bladder assessment, health professionals utilize different methods, including Bladder Scan and Bladder Palpation, to assess bladder volume and determine the bladder’s general wellness.

As with most, if not all, health conditions, bladder checks have to be timely and precise. Hence, there is a need to understand the intricacies of these techniques, whether you’re a health professional or a patient needing assessment.

This blog post will explore the Bladder Scan and Palpation methods, their similarities, differences, advantages, and everything in between.

What is a Bladder Scan?

A Bladder Scan is an advanced procedure that uses ultrasound technology to measure the volume of urine in the bladder. It is used for monitoring urinary issues, especially for patients after operations.

The procedure involves an ultrasound device that shows a real-time image of your bladder’s interior by emitting sound waves through the abdominal wall into the body. It is painless, non-invasive, precise, and quick, making it a preferred choice for numerous scenarios.

What is Bladder Palpation?

Bladder Palpation image
Bladder Palpation is a manual assessment of a patient’s bladder by a qualified healthcare provider who examines the abdomen to determine the bladder size, shape, consistency, etc. It does not involve technology and relies on the provider’s experience and tactile skills.

During Bladder Palpation, the healthcare provider will touch and apply minimal pressure to specific regions of the patient’s abdomen. This process is cost-effective and beneficial when limited resources and specialized equipment are absent. However, the accuracy is also limited due to the subjectivity of healthcare providers.

Bladder Scan vs. Bladder Palpation: The Common Ground

Despite the fundamental differences in their methodologies, Bladder Scan and Palpation have a common ground regarding their main objectives and roles. They are both crucial for checking bladder health and are employed in urology, post-surgery care, and geriatrics settings.

These techniques are essential for certain medical conditions, including the diagnosis of urinary retention, abdominal trauma, lower urinary tract symptoms, urinary incontinence, bladder outlet obstruction, post-operative urinary care, etc.

What are the Differences Between Bladder Scan and Bladder Palpation

Now that we know what both techniques are and their similarities let’s explore their differences from different aspects:

1. Technology

The technology involved in both techniques is the most obvious point of divergence. Bladder Scan is more sophisticated, using an ultrasound device that provides a visual image of the bladder in real-time.

Accompanying the ultrasound device for scanning is a host of useful features. For Instance, the Bladder Scan device from BladGo can connect with an external device that lets you print or save the image for another time. It has an internal memory for saving patients details and additional setups for more accurate results.

On the other hand, Palpation is a manual examination. It does not need any device but the tactile efficiency of the healthcare provider.

2. Applications

Both Bladder Scan and Palpation differ in the clinical scenarios where they can be applied. There's a preference for a Bladder Scan when the patient has a high risk of urinary retention, such as someone with a neurogenic bladder or recovering after surgery.

A Bladder Scan is also preferred when there's a requirement for precise measurement and non-invasiveness. Other situations where a Bladder Scan is more advisable include patients with stroke, enlarged prostrate, spinal cord injuries, and diabetes.

As for Palpation, it is more common in settings with limited resources or technology for bladder scanning. Palpation also comes into use for quick preliminary assessments during emergencies or initial stages of physical examinations.

3. Accuracy

Another difference between Bladder Scan and Palpation is in accuracy. The former leverages technology to deliver high precision and consistency in results. Palpation is subjective and varies based on the practitioner's expertise.

4. Comfort

Bladder Scan is more comfortable for patients since it's non-invasive. Palpation is usually quick, but it can make the patient feel embarrassed or slightly uncomfortable.

Bladder Scan is also a better option for people with immune deficiency, such as children, older people, or cognitively impaired people. That's because the process relies on communication from the patient.

5. Required Training

Both methods require the healthcare professional to be adequately trained, but there are differences in the types of training each one needs.

For Bladder Scan, the operator must understand how the scanning device works and be able to calibrate the device or troubleshoot in case of issues. They must also be capable of interpreting the scan results.

Meanwhile, health providers in charge of Palpation should know human anatomy and physiology. They should be experienced in interpreting tactile feedback and making informed decisions after manual assessment.

Other Things You Should Know About Bladder Palpation and Scanning

If you're undergoing any of Bladder Palpation or Scan procedures, you should take note of the following:

●Before the health professional in charge begins the procedures, they must have washed their hands. They must also abide by all other proper hygiene rules before, during, and after the procedures.

●The establishment or health provider must also ensure privacy before and during the procedure.

●They'll encourage you to empty your bladder before examination.

●The professional will explain the procedure to the patient prior to commencement.

●The bladder volume is best checked when the patient is supine. Hence, the person in charge will help you lie on your back.

●If it is a Bladder Scan, an ultrasound gel will be applied to the area of the skin to be scanned. The gel binds the device to the skin and enhances visualization.

●For a Bladder Scan, the device will ask you to select if the patient is male, female, female with hysterectomy, child, or obese.

●If the patient is obese or has a lot of loose skin, extra tissue may be pulled aside for easier scanning.

●The device will indicate when the scanning is done and show an image from which the bladder volume can be estimated. The image can be printed for further investigation or saved on a hard disk.

The Bottom Line

Bladder Scan and Palpation are two important assessment techniques for checking bladder volume, but they differ in methods, applications, and accuracy.

While Bladder Scan is non-invasive and precise, thanks to the use of ultrasound technology, Palpation relies solely on the health practitioner’s expertise for quick and cost-effective bladder examination.

The option selected depends on the situation and factors like the patient's specific condition, urgency, availability of equipment or personnel, etc. Some cases may also require the usage of both methods. However, ensuring that the health professional administering any of the methods is well-trained and experienced is crucial.

If you’re looking to invest in the Bladder Scan device for more accurate assessment, visit our store to explore high-quality equipment. We offer free shipping, a 14-day money-back guarantee, and a 2-year warranty.

With devices designed to offer accuracy, comfort, and reliability, you’re on your way to ensuring patients experience the highest healthcare standards.


South African Urogynaecological Association, CG40 Urinary Incontinence - Full Guideline (online). Accessed 01/11/2024.

Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Toolkit for Reducing Catheter-Associated Urinary Tract Infections in Hospital Units: Implementation Guide, Appendix C. Sample Bladder Scan Policy (online). Accessed 01/11/2024.

Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, To scan or not to scan? Detecting urinary retention : Nursing made Incredibly Easy (online). Accessed 01/11/2024

Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden, BLADDER DISTENSION: ASPECTS OF A HEALTHCARE-RELATED INJURY (online). Accessed 01/11/2024.

Article by
David Smith
David is a urologist with over 9 years of experience. He is also the Co-fonder of BladGo, where he regularly shares his expertise in the field of urology. David is committed to keeping readers up-to-date on the latest urological research and to sharing other beneficial healthcare tips and information so that they can live healthier lives.

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