by Carmack A


The urethra is a tube that passes urine out of the body. Urethral dilation opens a narrow urethra.

Reasons for Procedure

This procedure is done to allow urine to pass in people with:

  • Urethral stricture—scarring from swelling, harm, or infection
  • Meatal stenosis—a narrow opening of the urethra at the end of the penis

These problems are more common in men.

Possible Complications

Problems are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will go over some problems that could happen, such as:

  • Problems from anesthesia
  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Problems return and dilation needs to be repeated (common)
  • Harm to the urethra
  • Erection problems
  • Blood clots
  • Stroke
  • Heart attack

Smoking can make problems worse and slow healing. Quitting before surgery can improve recovery.

What to Expect

Prior to Procedure

You will need to:

  • Arrange for a ride home.
  • Arrange for help at home while you heal.
  • Talk to your doctor about all medicines you are taking, including over the counter medicines and supplements. Some may need to be stopped up to 1 week before the dilation.
  • Avoid food or drink after midnight the night before surgery.


You may be given anesthesia:

  • General—You will be asleep.
  • Local—The urethra will be numbed.

Description of the Procedure

The urethra will be numbed. One of 2 methods will be used to widen the urethra:

  • A wire will be passed through the urethra. Plastic or metal rods will be passed over or next to the wire. They will stretch tissue in the narrow area.
  • A tube with a balloon will be placed in the urethra. It will be slowly inflated to stretch the area.

The tools will be removed. A tube may be placed to help urine pass while you heal.

How Long Will It Take?

30 minutes

Will It Hurt?

Anesthesia will prevent pain. There may be discomfort when tools are first put in. You may also have some discomfort when you pass urine in the next few days.

Post-procedure Care

At the Care Center

You may be given pain medicine.

At Home

Most will return to normal activity by the next day.

Call Your Doctor

Call your doctor if you are not getting better or you have:

  • More bleeding than expected
  • Signs of infection, such as fever and chills
  • Problems that return
  • Pain that you cannot control with medicine
  • Problems urinating
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Problems having an erection
  • Chest pain

If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.


Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians 

Urology Care Foundation 


Canadian Urological Association 

Health Canada 


Common benign urologic conditions in men. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: . Accessed July 1, 2020.

Dilation treatment for urethral stricture. NYU Langone Health website. Available at: Accessed July 1, 2020.

Urethral strictures. Beaumont website. Available at: Accessed July 1, 2020.

What is meatal stenosis? Urology Care Foundation website. Available at: Accessed July 1, 2020.

What is urethral stricture? Urology Care Foundation website. Available at: Accessed July 1, 2020.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Adrienne Carmack, MD
  • Review Date: 07/2020
  • Update Date: 07/01/2020