What is the best treatment for urinary incontinence?

The sling procedure is the best, safest and most effective surgical operation for treating urinary stress incontinence. During the procedure, the urologist creates a sling using an artificial mesh, animal tissue or human tissue and places it under the urethra to support the urethra and bladder neck and to prevent unintentional urine loss.

What is stress incontinence?

Unintentional urine leakage (loss) occurs when you engage in physical activities or movements, such as running, sneezing, heavy-lifting, coughing or any action that puts stress (pressure) on your bladder. The condition is triggered by the weakening of pelvic floor muscles (the muscles supporting your bladder) and urinary sphincter muscles (muscles that control the release of urine).

Normally, as the bladder fills with urine and expands, the valve-like muscles in the urethra remain closed to prevent leakage of urine until you have reached the bathroom. However, if those muscles weaken and are not able to withstand pressure, then anything that exerts pressure on your pelvic and abdominal muscles can cause unintentional loss of urine.

Your sphincter and pelvic floor muscles may weaken because of:

  1. Type of childbirth/delivery.
  2. Previous pelvic or abdominal muscle surgery.
  3. Obesity/increased body weight.
  4. Smoking, which may trigger frequent coughing.
  5. Prolonged involvement in high-impact activities, such as running and jumping for several years.
  6. Age — the muscles weaken with increasing age.

You have stress urinary incontinence if you frequently leak urine when you:

  1. Sneeze
  2. Cough
  3. Stand up
  4. Laugh
  5. Have sex
  6. Get out of your car
  7. Exercise
  8. Lift something heavy

While stress incontinence does not imply that you will lose urine every time you do these things, you will most likely experience frequent leakage of urine when you engage in pressure-increasing activities.

Why should you undergo the sling procedure for stress urinary incontinence?

Having stress incontinence can be really awkward and embarrassing. In fact, with frequent leakage of urine, you may begin isolating yourself and limiting your social and work life. For instance, you may find it difficult to engage in exercise and in different leisure activities for fear of urine leakage. But with treatment, you can manage the incontinence and improve your overall quality of life and well-being. The sling procedure is ideal for you if you’ve tried other measures and still find urine leakage disruptive to your life.

How does the sling procedure work?

The sling procedure is aimed at closing your urethra and the neck of your bladder. For the procedure, your surgeon uses strips of synthetic mesh, animal tissue, donor tissue or your own tissue to develop a sling (hammock) that is inserted under your urethra or bladder neck. Once the sling is placed, it supports the urethra and ensures it remains closed — particularly when you are engaged in pressure-increasing activities such as coughing, laughing, sneezing or exercise — preventing the leakage of urine.

How is the sling procedure performed?

Before the procedure begins, you are placed under either general or spinal anesthesia. With general anesthesia, you will remain asleep throughout the procedure and will feel no pain. With spinal anesthesia, you are completely awake except that the area of your body from the waist down is numb and you don’t feel pain as the procedure is performed. Following application of anesthesia, the urologist places a tube (catheter) into your bladder to drain any urine already inside it.

The surgeon then proceeds to place the sling in any of the following ways:

1. Retropubic Method (Tension-Free Vaginal Tape/TVT Method): The surgeon makes a tiny incision inside your vagina, just under the urethra. Two other cuts are then made above your pubic bone — large enough to allow needles through. The surgeon uses a needle to place the sling beneath the urethra and behind the pubic bone. Using stitches or skin glue that is easily absorbed by the body, the surgeon closes off the cuts.

2. Single-Incision Mini Method: The surgeon makes a single tiny incision in the vagina, then passes the sling through it. No stitches are used to attach the sling, but over time the scar tissue grows and forms around it, keeping it in place.

3. Transobturator Method: The surgeon makes a tiny cut inside the vagina, just under the urethra. Two more cuts are made, one on each side of the labia (folds of skin on either side of the vagina). Using the incisions, the surgeon inserts the sling under the urethra.

At St Pete Urology, we perform hundreds of sling surgery procedures every year with remarkable results for our patients. The sling procedure is an outpatient operation that takes about one hour to complete and the patient is free to go home the same day. After the procedure, we arrange for follow-up sessions with our patients in the doctor’s office to assess the efficacy of the procedure and help with any complications that may arise. So if you are feeling embarrassed by stress urinary incontinence or have tried other measures without success, check with us to find out if the sling procedure can help you overcome the condition. For more information, visit the “St Pete Urology” site.

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St Pete Urology is a team of medical professionals who specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of urological diseases and conditions. We offer quality care with compassion. For an appointment, call us at (727) 478-1172