The role of a urologist
- Urologists are specialist doctors who provide medical and surgical treatment to anyone with a disorder of the kidney, urinary tract, bladder and urethra.
- Urologists also treat disorders of the male sex organs.
- Urologists can help diagnose and manage a wide range of medical problem, which may involve recommending lifestyle changes, prescribing medicines or surgery, as part of selecting the best treatment plan for your condition.
- You will need a referral before you can see a urologist.
- How much you pay for a urologist will depend on the type of care you receive and whether you have private health insurance.
What is a urologist?
A urologist is a specialist surgeon who treats anyone with a problem with their kidneys, bladder, prostate and male reproductive organs. These include a wide range of conditions, for example, cancer, kidney stones, infection, incontinence, sexual dysfunction and pelvic floor problems.
Urologists complete at least 5 years of specialist training after they become doctors.
When should I see a urologist?
Urologists are experts in treating a range of urinary tract problems in males and females, adults and children.
You may need to see a urologist for a range of different conditions, including:
- problems with urination, including an overactive bladder
- bladder and kidney infections
- blood in the urine
- kidney stones and bladder stones
- cancer of the kidney, bladder or adrenal glands
- pelvic floor problems
They can also treat problems specific to males, including:
- enlarged prostate (benign prostatic hypertrophy)
- inflamed or infected prostate (prostatitis)
- prostate cancer
- testicular cancer
- varicocele and cysts
- erectile dysfunction and infertility
Some urologists are sub-specialists in particular areas. For example, a paediatric urologist specialises in the treatment and management of urinary and reproductive system disorders in infants, children and teenagers.
Other sub-specialities include:
- robotic surgery, where the urologist uses 3-dimensional images and computer-controlled surgical instruments
- laparoscopic surgery, which uses small incisions and special surgical tools, including miniature video cameras
What should I expect during an appointment with my urologist?
The urologist will ask you questions about your medical and surgical history. They will ask for details about any medicines you take and any allergies you have. They will also discuss your general health and your symptoms, focusing on your underlying problem.
Depending on your condition, your urologist might carry out a physical exam, which may include a prostate exam. Your urologist might also refer you for other tests such as blood tests to check prostate specific antigen (PSA), testosterone and kidney function, and urine tests. Depending on your health concern, you may also need imaging scans.
Your doctor will then discuss appropriate treatment options for your situation, make recommendations for a treatment plan, and discuss your treatment preferences with you.
What questions should I ask a urologist?
Before you go to your first appointment, note down any questions you have. During the consultation, ask for clarification if you don’t understand what is said.
ASK YOUR DOCTOR — Preparing for an appointment? Use the Question Builder for general tips on what to ask your GP or specialist.
How can I find a urologist?
Ask your doctor, close friends or family to recommend a good urologist. You can find a urologist near you by searching the healthdirect service finder.
FIND A HEALTH SERVICE — The Service Finder can help you find doctors, pharmacies, hospitals and other health services.
Do I need a referral to see a urologist?
It is important to get a referral from your GP to see a urologist. The referral helps advise the urologist of your medical history and previous test results, and the urologist can update your general practitioner on findings after your visit.
If you don’t have a referral, neither Medicare nor private health insurance will contribute to the cost of your care.
How much will a urologist cost?
Urologists operate both in public and private hospitals, and their cost can vary a lot. How much you pay will also depend on what the urologist charges and the type of care you receive.
Out of hospital care
If you see a urologist in their rooms, then Medicare will cover:
- all of the costs if they bulk bill
- some of the costs if they don’t bulk bill
You can’t use private health insurance for out of hospital care.
Treatment in a public hospital using Medicare
If you are treated as a public patient in a public hospital or clinic and use Medicare, it is free. Medicare covers all costs.
Treatment in any hospital using private health insurance
If you use private health insurance to be treated in either in a public hospital or a private hospital or clinic, you will be charged by the urologist and by the hospital. You might also be charged for pathology tests, x-rays and other forms of imaging, and by other doctors you see, for example, an anaesthetist if you need surgery. Your private health insurance will cover some of these costs.
Asking about costs
It can be expensive to see specialists. Before you go for the first time, ask the urologist or their staff about the costs. You can also ask what Medicare will cover.
If you plan to use private health insurance, you can also contact your health fund.
If the costs are too high, you can:
- ask the urologist or their staff about fee reduction
- consider another specialist, such as a gynaecologist, or a health service
- talk to your GP about alternative treatment options
Resources and support
- The Urological Society of Australia and New Zealand website features information about urologists and some of the conditions they treat.
- Kidney Health Australia provides information about kidney disease, kidney cancer, kidney stones and urinary tract infections.
- The Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia site includes information about prostate cancer.
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Last reviewed: January 2023