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Bladder Instillation

Bladder instillation is a treatment that involves filling the bladder with a solution, leaving it in place for a short period, and then draining the solution with a catheter. It is sometimes referred to as intravesical treatment, bladder wash, or bladder bath.


The main reason for bladder instillation is for the treatment of interstitial cystitis (IC), a chronic inflammatory condition caused by nerve miscommunication that is sometimes mistaken for a urinary tract infection (UTI). IC is not curable, although it is often manageable with bladder instillations when combined with other treatments. Other reasons for a bladder wash include:

  • Treatment for chronic UTIs. 
  • Treatment for patients with accumulated sediments in the urine.
  • Treatment for other conditions that reduce bladder capacity and contribute to frequent urination, not caused by underlying problems such as tumors or plan argued prostate.
  • Treatment of issues that are related to blocked urinary catheters.

Interstitial Cystitis/Bladder Pain Syndrome 

IC/BPS is a chronic bladder health issue. It is a feeling of pain and pressure in the bladder area. The pain is associated with lower urinary tract symptoms (LUTS) which have been prolonged for more than six (6) weeks without having any infection or other clear causes. 

Symptoms may range from severe. For some individuals, the symptoms may come and go, and for others, they don’t go away. IC/BPS is not an infection, though it may appear like a bladder infection. Women with IC/BPS may feel pain during sexual intercourse. 

Patients of IC/BPS may have bladder pains which may gradually get worsened as the bladder is being filled up. Some may feel pain in other areas, in addition to the bladder. Such areas may include: 

  • Urethra.
  • Lower abdomen.
  • Lower back.
  • The pelvic or perineal area.
  • Behind or inside the vagina [in women].
  • Behind or inside the scrotum [in men].

Men may also feel the pains in their testicles, or penises, while women may also feel such pains in their vulvas. 

IC/BPS is a chronic inflammation of the nerve misinformation, rather than a urinary tract infection [UTI]. It does not infect your partner, although he/she can have it.


Dimethyl sulfoxide [DMSO] is the only bladder instillation solution that is approved by the Food And Drugs Administration [FDA]. It is believed that DMSO works by increasing bladder capacity and relaxing pelvic and bladder muscles, and so relax the muscles and effectively ease bladder discomfort or pains. 

Potential side effects associated with the DMSO are averagely minimal, but the most common ones are a garlic-like odor that may persist for a few days after washing the bladder with the sulfoxide. Some urologists add other medications like heparin which may ease the damages to the bladder lining to DMSO solutions.

Intravesical treatment, also defined as bladder instillation, is a form of therapy and treatment for BPS/IC. Common bladder installations include the below:

  • Intravesical lidocaine.
  • Hyaluronic acid.
  • Methyl sulfoxide [DMSO].
  • Heparin.
  • Mitomycin
  • Elmiron
  • Chondroitin sulfate.


The following above are or can be used as, individual or combined therapies.


Done in the urologist’s room (in-office), or the patient can be trained to perform these procedures at home. 

These procedures carried out while performing the bladder instillation treatment include all of the following mentioned below:

  1. The DMSO solution is pre-measured.
  2. A catheter is inserted into the tube that leads to the bladder, from the outside of the body [the urethra].
  3. The DMSO solution is inserted and left to remain in place for about 15 minutes.
  4. With a catheter, the solution is drained out of the bladder.
  5. Repeat the procedure after every 3 weeks.

What To Expect After The Bladder Instillation Treatment

Each patient responds differently to bladder baths. Improvements are often taken notice of within 3 to 4 weeks after the treatment procedures.

Intravesical treatment performed as outpatient in-office procedures or done via self-catheterization at home (by the patients themselves) are usually done in cycles, usually lasting between the ranges of 6 to 8 eight weeks. If the bladder wash shows proof of being relieved on symptoms, the cycle may have to be repeated once again.

A urologist may carry out visual inspections of the bladder between each of the treatments, to look for signs of other problems affecting the urinary system. Some regular use of catheters may sometimes develop risks of urinary tract infections [UTIs]. 

Patients may also be examined for signs of UTIs. People suffering from IC/BPS may observe a more consistent relief of bladder instillations if they then combine it with lifestyle adjustments. They should avoid excess spicy and acidic foods which may tend to irritate the bladder.

Since IC may also be heightened by physical and mental stress, relaxation and gentle exercises like yoga may be of great benefit. 

Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) is a therapy that uses low voltage electrical current to provide pain relief] and other forms of electrical stimulation, as well as bladder exercises, are encouraged.

What is interstitial cystitis?

IC is a chronic bladder pain and a pain in the organs near the bladder, that may be misdiagnosed as a urinary tract infection [UTI]. IC is, in fact, not a UTI. The signs and symptoms of IC vary from person to person. Your symptoms may also vary over time, periodically firing in response to common triggers such as stress, menstruation, exercises, and sexual activities or intercourse.

How long does bladder instillation last?

Bladder instillations [also known as bladder wash] are typically done every week or every other week. The cycle of treatment usually continues anywhere, from a month or so to up to two months [6 to 8 weeks]. Bladder baths can be repeated in multiple cycles if it is determined that the treatments are helping to control the symptoms.

How can you calm an inflamed bladder?

A heating pad that is placed on the suffering patient’s lower abdomen can soothe and possibly immunize feelings of bladder pain and pressure. Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids, most especially water, to keep you going. However, ensure to avoid certain fluids, such as coffee, alcohol, soft drinks with quantities of caffeine in them, and citrus juices. Also make sure you avoid spicy foods, until your infection clears.

What is the best pain medication for interstitial cystitis?

The treatments for IC include the below:

  • Non-steroidal and inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen [including Advil, Motrin IB, etc] or naproxen sodium [for example, Aleve], to relieve pain.
  • Tricyclic antidepressants such as amitriptyline or imipramine [for example, Tofranil], help relax your bladder and eliminate pain.

Do bladder instillations help IC?

Instilling DMSO solutions in the bladder is FDA-approved, for the treatment of interstitial cystitis [IC]. The Food And Drugs Administration officially approved the dimethyl sulfoxide [DMSO] solution in the 1970s. 

The sulfoxide solution [which is the only present solution for bladder instillations or bladder wash] helps to relax the bladder and likewise exterminate pains. 

The intravesical treatment [which is also known as bladder instillation or bladder bath] involves weekly instillations or washing for 6 to 8 weeks, and then, every 2 weeks, for 3 or more months.