The Physics
An encyclopedia of scientific essays

Volume of a Human Bladder

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Bibliographic Entry Result
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Hole, John W. Human Anatomy and Physiology. 2nd ed. Dubuque, IA: WCB, 1981. "Although the urinary bladder may hold as much as 600 ml of urine, the desire to urinate is usually experienced when it contains about 150 ml." 600 cm3
150 cm3
Encyclopedia Americana - International Edition. Danbury, CT: Grolier, 2001. "When it is completely filled, the bladder can hold approximately 17 to 18 ounces (500 to 530 ml) of urine." 500–530 cm3
Magill's Medical Guide Volume III. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Salem, 1998. "A completely full bladder is capable of holding approximately 1 liter of fluid … Ordinarily the urge to urinate occurs when the bladder contains about 200 ml of urine." 1000 cm3
200 cm3
Gray, Henry F.R.S. Gray's Anatomy - 1901 Edition. Philadelphia: Carriage, 1974. When moderately distended, it measures about five inches in length and three inches across, and the ordinary amount which it contains is about a pint." 470 cm3
Urinary Bladder. "The desire to micturate begins at around a content of 400 ml but it can be voluntarily overridden until the content reaches 600–800 ml, equivalent to a pressure of 100 ml of water. 600-800 cm3
400 cm3

There's a great scene in an episode of The Cosby Show where Mr. Huxtable is dressing his daughter to go play out in the snow. Like a good father, he dresses her appropriately for the cold weather. With every layer he puts on her he asks "Do you have to go to the bathroom?"Seven layers and seven questions later, the daughter innocently says "Dad, I have to pee!" and begins to undress.

It's almost impossible to give an exact measurement for the volume of the human bladder. That is, everyone's ability to hold a certain amount of urine differs. The point at which a person can't "hold it in"anymore and urine is expelled from the urinary bladder is known as Micturition. The urge to urinate is stimulated by expansion of of the bladder. As the bladder walls fill with urine and expand, stretch receptors are stimulated and the Micturition reflex is triggered. The Micturition reflex center is located in the spinal cord. When it is signaled by impulses from the stretch receptors, motor impulses travel to a muscle in the urinary bladder which undergoes rhythmic contractions. It is interesting to note that the reason infants are unable to control the voluntary muscles associated with Micturition is because voluntary control of Micturition becomes possible as the brain and spinal cord mature.

The majority of sources that I found reported that the adult bladder could contain about 600 to 800 cm3 (ml). However, they also noted that the Micturition point is between 150 and 300 cm3 (ml).

Daniel Shaw -- 2001