The purpose of this study was to identify risk factors for urinary retention (UR) in frail, elderly patients, to determine its prevalence, and to assess the validity of the use of the BladderScan BVI 2500+ ultrasound scanner to measure postvoid residual urine volumes of ≥ 150 ml. Probable UR was defined as two consecutive ultrasound scans with postvoid residual urine estimations of ≥ 150 ml. The estimates were confirmed by in- and out-catheterization of actual postvoid residual urine (PVR). Risk factors for UR were the independent variables used in the regression analysis. Nineteen of the 167 people (11%) had UR. The risk of UR was greatest among patients who were older, or who were on anticholinergic medication, or who had diabetes of long standing, or who had fecal impaction. The correlation between paired scans and catheter volumes of ≥ 150 ml was 0.87. The results suggest that the BladderScan BVI 2500+ ultrasound scanner, when used by trained nursing staff, provides conservative and valid estimates of PVR of ≥ 150 ml in people undergoing geriatric rehabilitation.