Megaureter is the medical term for an enlarged ureter. The ureter is a tube-like structure that urine passes through on its way from the kidney to the bladder. Each person has two ureters, one for each kidney. Together, the ureter and the kidney collecting system are referred to as the upper urinary tract.

Boys are more likely than girls to have a megaureter. The condition often has no symptoms and in infants, may clear up on its own. In older children, megaureter can cause urinary tract infections (UTIs). In some cases it can cause kidney damage.

What are the symptoms of megaureter?

There's a good chance that your child will not show any symptoms of megaureter. Often, the condition is detected on prenatal ultrasound. However, some children experience one or more of the following symptoms during infancy or early childhood:

What causes megaureter?

There can be different causes for megaureter.

Normally the ureter is made up of flexible, muscular tissue. Some children are born with stiff, inflexible tissue at the bottom of one or both of their ureters, however. Without flexible tissue at this location, movement of urine to the bladder is more difficult. Instead, urine backs up inside the ureter and causes it to stretch.

In other children megaureter is caused by a trouble with urination. Some of the urine that is supposed to flow out of the kidney into the bladder travels backward up the ureter toward the kidney. This is called vesicoureteral reflux and is often more severe in grade.

How we care for megaureter

The Department of Urology at Boston Children's Hospital has been caring for children for over 30 years. Our physicians are dedicated to pediatric urologic care, surgical expertise and research in all aspects of pediatric urology. We perform more than 3,000 surgical procedures and care for 20,000 children worldwide each year. Further, our highly trained nurses, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, psychologists, social workers and child life specialists are available to help your child through each and every test and procedure.