Urinary incontinence surgery
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Doctors usually suggest surgery to alleviate incontinence only after other treatments have been tried. Many surgical options have high rates of success.
Most stress incontinence in women results from the bladder dropping down toward the vagina. Therefore, common surgery for stress incontinence involves pulling the bladder up to a more normal position. Working through an incision in the vagina or abdomen, the surgeon raises the bladder and secures it with a string attached to muscle, ligament, or bone. For severe cases of stress incontinence, the surgeon may secure the bladder with a wide sling. This not only holds up the bladder but also compresses the bottom of the bladder and the top of the urethra, further preventing leakage.
The Marshall-Marchetti-Krantz (MMK) procedure, also known as retropubic suspension or bladder neck suspension surgery, is performed by a surgeon in a hospital setting. Developed in 1949 by doctors Victor F. Marshall (urologist), Andrew A. Marchetti (OB/GYN), and Kermit E. Krantz (OB/GYN) is the standard which new procedures are measures. In 1961 Dr. Burch reported a modification of the MMK operation (the Burch modification.)
The patient is placed under general anesthesia, and a long, thin, flexible tube (catheter) is inserted into the bladder through the narrow tube (urethra) that drains the body's urine. An incision is made across the abdomen, and the bladder is exposed. The bladder is separated from surrounding tissues. Stitches (sutures) are placed in these tissues near the bladder neck and urethra. The urethra is then lifted, and the sutures are attached to the pubic bone itself, or to tissue (fascia) behind the pubic bone. The sutures support the bladder neck, helping the patient gain control over urine flow. The Burch modifications involved placing the surgical sutures at the bladder neck and tying them to the Cooper ligament.
Approximately 85% of women who undergo the Marshall-Marchetti-Krantz procedure are cured of their stress incontinence.
The procedure of choice for stress urinary incontinence in females is what is called a sling procedure. A sling usually consists of a synthetic mesh material in the shape of a narrow ribbon but sometimes a biomaterial (bovine, porcine) or the patients' own tissue that is placed under the urethra through one vaginal incision and two small abdominal incisions. The idea is to replace the deficient pelvic floor muscles and provide a "backboard" or "hammock" of support under the urethra. According to published peer-reviewed studies, these slings are approximately 85% effective.
Slings employ a "one size fits all" philosophy as the body's reaction to the sling is to scar it into place. There is an adjustable sling which consists of a standard synthetic mesh sling combined with sutures that attach to an implatable tensioning device that resides as a permanent implant under the skin in the abdominal wall. Once implanted, this device can be re-accessed under local anesthesia to fine tune the sling should incontinence reappear months or years after the initial surgery.
Artificial urinary sphincter
In rare cases, a surgeon implants an artificial urinary sphincter, a doughnut-shaped sac that circles the urethra. A fluid fills and expands the sac, which squeezes the urethra closed. By pressing a valve implanted under the skin, the artificial sphincter can be deflated. This removes pressure from the urethra, allowing urine from the bladder to pass.
If an incontinence is due to overflow incontinence, in which the bladder never empties completely, or if the bladder cannot empty because of poor muscle tone, past surgery, or spinal cord injury, a catheter may be used to empty the bladder. A catheter is a tube that can be inserted through the urethra into the bladder to drain urine. Catheters may be used once in a while or on a constant basis, in which case the tube connects to a bag that is attached to the leg. If a long-term (or indwelling) catheter is used, urinary tract infections may occur.
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- 14 years of experience with the artificial urinary sphincter in children and adolescents without spina bifida Ruiz et al. J Urol. 2006 Oct;176(4 Pt 2):1821-5