The Procedure That Helps Women Conquer Incontinence
If you leak urine when you cough, laugh, sneeze or exercise, you’re far from alone.
The condition, known as stress urinary incontinence (SUI), affects about one in three women at some point in their lives, according to the American Urogynecologic Society (AUGS).
“Many women will first notice SUI after the birth of their first child or during menopause, but it can happen at any age,” says Nabila Noor, MD, with LVPG Female Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery. SUI results when activities like exercise or sneezing cause an increase in abdominal pressure. The urethra and bladder are supported by pelvic floor muscles. Weakness in the muscles or damage to the bladder neck support can cause urine to leak. Whether it’s just a few drops or enough to saturate undergarments (and beyond), SUI is an aggravation.
Fortunately, there’s a relatively quick remedy: the sling procedure, a surgical treatment that involves placing a small piece of polypropylene mesh under the urethra to support it. The outpatient hospital procedure, which requires only small incisions under twilight anesthesia, similar to what you would receive for a colonoscopy, takes just 20-30 minutes. Best of all, “most women notice improvement immediately,” says Carolyn Botros, DO, with LVPG Female Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery.
What is the sling attached to?
The sling isn’t surgically attached to anything; it’s placed against the urethra, and your own tissue grows over it to hold it in place.
Can the sling dissolve?
No, it’s permanent. “The sling can stay in your body as long as it’s helping you,” Noor says.
Will my body react to the polypropylene mesh?
No, polypropylene is a non- reactive substance.
Who is eligible for the sling?
“Pregnancy and childbirth may displace the sling so it’s best to wait to have the procedure until after you’ve completed your family,” Botros says. Eligible patients will undergo a few quick tests in the doctor’s office to see if the sling is an appropriate treatment.
Does the sling require special care?
Avoid heavy lifting and vigorous exercise for a few weeks post-surgery. “If everything heals well, you can just go back to living your life after a couple of weeks of exercise restrictions. That’s the goal,” Noor says. Overall, “most patients are surprised by how well the sling works.”