• vesico-ureteric reflux;
  • intravesical ureter;
  • electron microscopy


To determine the structure of the intravesical distal ureteric wall of patients with primary vesico-ureteric reflux (VUR), and to compare the findings with previous reports.


Specimens of the distal intravesical ureteric segments were taken surgically from children undergoing ureteric reimplantation surgery for primary VUR. There were 24 distal intravesical ureteric specimens from 15 children (nine female and six male). Ultra-thin sections were cut from the specimens and examined with a transmission electron microscope.


The appearance of the muscular layers of the specimens of different grades differed markedly. There were intercellular oedematous areas in the muscular layer in specimens from patients with grade 2 and 3 VUR. In specimens from grade 4 VUR there were also intracytoplasmic vacuoles in the smooth muscle cells. The most marked and striking changes were in the specimens from children with grade 5 VUR, in which there were large intercellular oedematous areas and prominent large intracytoplasmic vacuoles.


Refluxing ureters differ from normal ureters in having disorganized smooth muscle fibres and altered smooth muscle cell structure, leading to incompetence of the valve mechanism. Although we cannot confirm that these pathological changes in the smooth muscle layer of the intravesical ureteric wall are caused by VUR we conclude that, with increasing degrees of reflux, the degree of smooth muscle damage increases, and that the rate of spontaneous resolution decreases.