Health Information

Urethral Suspension -- Sling Procedure

Definition

Urethral suspension is a surgery to correct stress incontinence in women. The procedure creates support for the tube that carries urine out of the body. The tube is called the urethra.

Female Bladder and Urethra
Bladder and uretha female
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Reasons for Procedure

The goal of this surgery is to place a sling under the urethra. The sling will close off the urethra during stressors like laughing or sneezing. This will stop the uncontrolled leaking of urine.

Possible Complications

Complications are rare, but no procedure is completely free of risk. If you are planning to have a urethral suspension, your doctor will review a list of possible complications, which may include:

  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Reactions to anesthesia
  • Inability to urinate
  • Continued incontinence or recurrence of the problem
  • Damage to other nearby organs or blood vessels
  • Pain such as during sexual intercourse

Sometimes, a surgical mesh is used in this procedure. This mesh has been linked to some problems during recovery. Talk to your doctor about medical devices used during surgery.

Before your procedure, talk to your doctor about ways to manage factors that may increase your risk of complications such as:

  • Smoking
  • Drinking
  • Chronic disease such as diabetes or obesity

Prior pelvic or vaginal surgery may increase the risk of complications.

What to Expect

Prior to Procedure

Your doctor will try to find out why you are leaking urine through some or all of the following:

  • Medical history—information about medications, illnesses, number of pregnancies, and previous surgeries; pattern of leaking and how it is affecting your life
  • Urine sample—to look for the presence of infection or other problems
  • Physical exam—includes a rectal and vaginal exam
  • Additional testing may be ordered to evaluate bladder function and urine flow, such as:
    • Urine flow studies—a temporary catheter is placed to study bladder function
    • Cystoscopy —a procedure done to view the inside of the bladder

Steps to take leading up to surgery:

  • Talk to your doctor about your medications. You may be asked to stop taking some medications up to one week before the procedure, like:
    • Anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen
    • Blood thinners
    • Anti-platelet medications
  • Arrange for a ride home from the hospital.
  • Do not eat or drink anything after midnight the night before.

Anesthesia

You may receive a spinal anesthetic to numb your lower body. General anesthesia may also be used, in which case you will be asleep.

Description of Procedure

One or two small incisions will be made in the abdominal wall and vagina. A sling will be placed under the urethra and stitched into place. The sling can be made out of a synthetic material or tissue from your own body.

Immediately After Procedure

After surgery, you will be monitored in a recovery room. You will most likely have a catheter in place to drain your urine.

How Long Will It Take?

1-1.5 hours

How Much Will It Hurt?

Anesthesia will block pain during the surgery. After surgery, you may experience some pain or soreness. You will be given pain medication to relieve the discomfort.

Average Hospital Stay

You may be sent home the same day.

Postoperative Care

At the Hospital

At first, your urine may look bloody. This will resolve over time.

When you are able to empty your bladder completely, the catheter will be removed. You may be asked to get up and walk around.

During your stay, the hospital staff will take steps to reduce your chance of infection such as:

  • Washing their hands
  • Wearing gloves or masks
  • Keeping your incisions covered

There are also steps you can take to reduce your chances of infection such as:

  • Washing your hands often and reminding visitors and healthcare providers to do the same
  • Reminding your healthcare providers to wear gloves or masks
  • Not allowing others to touch your incisions
At Home

Certain steps will allow healing to take place. General steps include:

  • Avoid lifting and strenuous exercise for six weeks after surgery.
  • Ask your doctor about when it is safe to shower, bathe, or soak in water.
  • Ask your doctor when it will be safe to have sex or use tampons.

To help ensure a smooth recovery, follow your doctor's instructions.

Call Your Doctor

After you leave the hospital, contact your doctor if any of the following occurs:

  • Signs of infection, including fever and chills
  • Redness, swelling, increasing pain, excessive bleeding, or any discharge from the incision site
  • Pain that you cannot control with the medications you have been given
  • Cough, shortness of breath, or chest pain
  • Severe nausea or vomiting
  • Trouble urinating
  • Pain, burning, urgency, or frequency of urination

In case of an emergency, call for medical help right away.

Revision Information

  • National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse

    http://kidney.niddk.nih.gov

  • Urology Care Foundation

    http://www.urologyhealth.org

  • The Canadian Continence Foundation

    http://www.canadiancontinence.ca

  • Canadian Urological Association

    http://www.cua.org

  • Incontinence. American Urological Association Foundation website. Available at: http://www.urologyhealth.org/urology/index.cfm?article=143. Updated March 2013. Accessed December 2, 2013.

  • Incontinence. American Association of Family Physicians website. Available at: http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/diseases-conditions/urinary-incontinence.html. Updated July 2010. Accessed December 2, 2013.

  • Surgical mesh. US Food and Drug Administration website. Available at: http://www.fda.gov/MedicalDevices/Safety/AlertsandNotices/ucm142636.htm. Updated September 24, 2013. Accessed December 2, 2013.

  • Surgical treatment for female stress urinary incontinence. National Association for Continence website. Available at: http://www.nafc.org/bladder-bowel-health/types-of-incontinence/stress-incontinence/surgical-treatment-for-female-stress-urinary-incontinence. Accessed December 2, 2013.

  • Townsend MK, Danforth KN, et al. Physical activity and incident urinary incontinence in middle-aged women. J Urol. 2008;179:1012-1016; discussion 1016-1017.

  • 6/3/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Mills E, Eyawo O, Lockhart I, Kelly S, Wu P, Ebbert JO. Smoking cessation reduces postoperative complications: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Med. 2011;124(2):144-154.e8.

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