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Urethra

The final passageway for the flow of urine is the urethra, a thin-walled tube that conveys urine from the floor of the urinary bladder to the outside. The opening to the outside is the external urethral orifice. The mucosal lining of the urethra is transitional epithelium. The wall also contains smooth muscle fibers and is supported by connective tissue.

The internal urethral sphincter surrounds the beginning of the urethra, where it leaves the urinary bladder. This sphincter is smooth (involuntary) muscle. Another sphincter, the external urethral sphincter, is skeletal (voluntary) muscle and encircles the urethra where it goes through the pelvic floor. These two sphincters control the flow of urine through the urethra.

In females, the urethra is short, only 3 to 4 cm (about 1.5 inches) long. The external urethral orifice opens to the outside just anterior to the opening for the vagina.

In males, the urethra is much longer, about 20 cm (7 to 8 inches) in length, and transports both urine and semen. The first part, next to the urinary bladder, passes through the prostate gland and is called the prostatic urethra. The second part, a short region that penetrates the pelvic floor and enters the penis, is called the membranous urethra. The third part, the spongy urethra, is the longest region. This portion of the urethra extends the entire length of the penis, and the external urethral orifice opens to the outside at the tip of the penis.