A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic Health System

Back to the future for female stress incontinence treatment

Three young women drinking coffee together at a cafe - Female stress incontinence treatment

With advancements in robotic surgery, an old treatment for urinary incontinence has been vastly improved.

A current, popular treatment for female urinary incontinence is effective, but an older treatment, now improved with state-of-the-art technology, may be a better option for some women.

What is incontinence?

Urinary incontinence is leaking or lack of control in releasing urine. Some women may leak due to physical stress from laughing, lifting heavy objects or coughing. Urge incontinence occurs when women feel they have to go to the bathroom but leak before they can get there. Both are equally common.

The treatment that is commonly used for urinary stress incontinence implants a vaginal sling, which uses a mesh material to close the urethra and bladder neck. This treatment, while effective, can cause discomfort during sexual intercourse for women or their partner, injury to the female anatomy, and those who have this treatment can no longer deliver a baby vaginally.

Old treatment, new approach

A new approach to an old treatment for urinary stress incontinence is being used by Dr. Balaji Kalyanaraman, a Marshfield Clinic urologist. This procedure was originally done before the sling was popularized. In the procedure, an incision is made and the urethra is pulled up and sewn to the pubic bone.

When it was initially popularized, the surgery had mixed results because surgeons struggled to accurately place stiches. Now, with robotics, surgical precision has improved, and this procedure is more effective than before.

Kalyanaraman said this improved surgery eliminates the need for a big incision, and women can typically go home the same day of surgery.

The women who have had this procedure are seeing their incontinence solved in as little as a day after the surgery,” Kalyanaraman said.

The other major advantage of this procedure is that it eliminates the negative side effects of the sling procedure. Kalyanaraman said he has not seen any significant side effects in women on whom he has performed this surgery.

If you have urinary stress incontinence, talk with your provider about your options.

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