Stress incontinence

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Stress incontinence
Pelvic floor
SpecialtyUrology, gynaecology, urogynecology Edit this on Wikidata

Stress incontinence, also known as stress urinary incontinence (SUI) or effort incontinence is a form of urinary incontinence. It is due to insufficient strength of the closure of the bladder.


It is the loss of small amounts of urine associated with coughing, laughing, sneezing, exercising or other movements that increase intra-abdominal pressure and thus increase pressure on the bladder. The urethra is supported by fascia of the pelvic floor. If this support is insufficient, the urethra can move downward at times of increased abdominal pressure, allowing urine to pass.

Most lab results such as urine analysis, cystometry and postvoid residual volume are normal.

Some sources distinguish between urethral hypermobility and intrinsic sphincter deficiency. The latter is more rare, and requires different surgical approaches.[1]


Stress incontinence is rare in men. The most common cause is as a post-surgical complication following a prostatectomy.


In women, physical changes resulting from pregnancy, childbirth, and menopause often contribute to stress incontinence. Stress incontinence can worsen during the week before the menstrual period. At that time, lowered estrogen levels may lead to lower muscular pressure around the urethra, increasing chances of leakage. The incidence of stress incontinence increases following menopause, similarly because of lowered estrogen levels. In female high-level athletes, effort incontinence occurs in all sports involving abrupt repeated increases in intra-abdominal pressure that may exceed perineal floor resistance.[2]


Behavioral changes (Conservative treatments)[edit]

Some behavioral changes can improve stress incontinence. It is recommended to decrease overall consumption of liquids and avoid drinking caffeinated beverages because they irritate the bladder. Spicy foods, carbonated beverages, alcohol and citrus also irritate the bladder and should be avoided. Quitting smoking can also improve stress incontinence because smoking irritates the bladder and can induce coughing (putting stress on the bladder).[medical citation needed] The effectiveness of these approaches to treat people for whom synthetic midurethral tape surgery did not result in a cure (failed surgery) is not clear.[3]

Weight loss[edit]

Weight loss in overweight women reduced stress incontinence, in women with a Body Mass Index (BMI) over 25 and at least 10 episodes of urinary incontinence per week. With exercise and restricted diet they had a 70% or greater reduction in overall incontinence episodes.[medical citation needed]


One of the most common treatment recommendations includes exercising the muscles of the pelvis. Kegel exercises to strengthen or retrain pelvic floor muscles and sphincter muscles can reduce stress leakage.[4] Patients younger than 60 years old benefit the most.[4] The patient should do at least 24 daily contractions for at least 6 weeks.[4] It is possible to assess pelvic floor muscle strength using a Kegel perineometer.

Bladder training[edit]

Bladder training is a technique that encourages people to modify their voiding habits (lengthening the time between voiding). Weak evidence suggests that bladder training may be helpful for the treatment of urinary incontinence.[5] This type of intervention can take a person months to learn and would not be a therapy option for people who are not physically or mentally able to control their voiding.[5]

Incontinence pads[edit]

An incontinence pad is a multi-layered, absorbent sheet that collects urine resulting from urinary incontinence. Similar solutions include absorbent undergarments and adult diapers. Absorbent products may cause side effects of leaks, odors, skin breakdown, and UTI. Incontinence pads may also come in the form of a small sheet placed underneath a patient in the hospital, for situations when it is not practical for the patient to wear a diaper.[medical citation needed]

People have different preferences regarding the type of pad they use to stay dry when they have incontinence.[6] In addition, the effectiveness of incontinence pads differ between people.[6] Using different designs depending on the activity (sleeping/going out/staying in) is recommended.[6] For men, the most cost-effective design is an incontinence pad in a diaper format.[6] For women, incontinence pads that are in the form of disposable pull-ups are generally preferred, however there is a higher cost associated with this type of solution.[6] For women who are in nursing homes, diapers are preferred at night.[6] Washable diapers are cost effective, however, most people do not prefer washable diapers with the exception of some men who prefer as a means to control incontinence at night.[6] There is no evidence that one type of incontinence pad is superior with regard to skin health.[6]


A pessary is a medical device that is inserted into the vagina. The most common kind is ring shaped, and is typically recommended to correct vaginal prolapse. The pessary compresses the urethra against the symphysis pubis and elevates the bladder neck. For some women this may reduce stress leakage, however it is not clear how well these mechanical devices help women with stress urinary incontinence.[7]


Doctors usually suggest surgery to alleviate incontinence only after other treatments have been tried. Many surgical options have high rates of success. Less-invasive variants of the sling operation have been shown to be equally effective in treating stress incontinence as surgical sling operations.[8][needs update] One such surgery is urethropexy.[citation needed] Insertion of a sling through the vagina (rather than by opening the lower abdomen) is called intravaginal slingplasty (IVS).[medical citation needed]


The procedure of choice for stress urinary incontinence in females is what is called a sling procedure. A sling implant usually consists of a synthetic mesh material in the shape of a narrow ribbon but sometimes a biomaterial (bovine or 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 of support under the urethra. Transvaginal mesh has recently come under scrutiny, as patients allege long-term harm and suffering as a result of implanted mesh.[medical citation needed] Insertion of a sling through the vagina (rather than by opening the lower abdomen) is called intravaginal slingplasty (IVS).[medical citation needed]

Transobturator tape[edit]

The transobturator tape (TOT or Monarc) sling procedure aims to eliminate stress urinary incontinence by providing support under the urethra. The minimally-invasive procedure eliminates retropubic needle passage and involves inserting a mesh tape under the urethra through three small incisions in the groin area.[9]

Midurethral tape[edit]

A procedure that involves placing polypropylene tape under the outlet from the bladder to improve stress incontinence.[3]

Bladder repositioning[edit]

Most stress incontinence in women results from the urethra dropping down toward the vagina. Therefore, common surgery for stress incontinence involves pulling the urethra up to a more normal position. Working through an incision in the vagina or abdomen, the surgeon raises the urethra and secures it with a string attached to muscle, ligament, or bone. For severe cases of stress incontinence, the surgeon may secure the urethra 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.[medical citation needed]

Peri/trans urethral injections[edit]

A variety of materials have been historically used to add bulk to the urethra and thereby increase outlet resistance. This is most effective in patients with a relatively fixed urethra. Blood and fat have been used with limited success. The most widely used substance, gluteraldehyde crosslinked collagen (GAX collagen) proved to be of value in many patients. The main downfall was the need to repeat the procedure over time.[medical citation needed]

Artificial urinary sphincter[edit]

CT scan (coronal reconstruction) showing an artificial urethral sphincter in a woman

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.[medical citation needed]


No useful studies have been done to determine whether acupuncture can help people with stress urinary incontinence.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ghoniem, G. M.; Elgamasy, A.-N.; Elsergany, R.; Kapoor, D. S. (18 March 2014). "Grades of Intrinsic Sphincteric Deficiency (ISD) Associated with Female Stress Urinary Incontinence". International Urogynecology Journal. 13 (2): 99–105. doi:10.1007/s001920200023. PMID 12054190.
  2. ^ Crepin, G; Biserte, J; Cosson, M; Duchene, F (October 2006). "Appareil génital féminin et sport de haut niveau" [The female urogenital system and high level sports]. Bulletin de l'Académie Nationale de Médecine (in French). 190 (7): 1479–91, discussion 1491–3. doi:10.1016/S0001-4079(19)33208-X. PMID 17450681.
  3. ^ a b Bakali, Evangelia; Johnson, Eugenie; Buckley, Brian S; Hilton, Paul; Walker, Ben; Tincello, Douglas G (2019-09-04). Cochrane Incontinence Group (ed.). "Interventions for treating recurrent stress urinary incontinence after failed minimally invasive synthetic midurethral tape surgery in women". Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD009407.pub3.
  4. ^ a b c Choi H, Palmer MH, Park J (2007). "Meta-analysis of pelvic floor muscle training: randomized controlled trials in incontinent women". Nursing Research. 56 (4): 226–34. doi:10.1097/01.NNR.0000280610.93373.e1. PMID 17625461.
  5. ^ a b Wallace, Sheila A; Roe, Brenda; Williams, Kate; Palmer, Mary (26 January 2004). "Bladder training for urinary incontinence in adults". Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (1): CD001308. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD001308.pub2. PMID 14973967.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h Fader, Mandy; Cottenden, Alan M; Getliffe, Kathryn (8 October 2008). "Absorbent products for moderate-heavy urinary and/or faecal incontinence in women and men". Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (4): CD007408. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD007408. PMID 18843748.
  7. ^ Lipp, Allyson; Shaw, Christine; Glavind, Karin (2011). "Mechanical devices for urinary incontinence in women". Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (7): CD001756. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD001756.pub5. PMID 21735385.
  8. ^ Ford, Abigail A; Rogerson, Lynne; Cody, June D; Ogah, Joseph (1 July 2015). "Mid-urethral sling operations for stress urinary incontinence in women". The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (7): CD006375. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD006375.pub3. PMID 26130017.
  9. ^ Stenchever MA (2001). "Chapter 21. Physiology of micturition, diagnosis of voiding dysfunction and incontinence: surgical and nonsurgical treatment section of Urogynecology". Comprehensive Gynecology (4 ed.). pp. 607–639. ISBN 978-0-323-01402-1.
  10. ^ Wang, Yang; Zhishun, Liu; Peng, Weina; Zhao, Jie; Liu, Baoyan (1 July 2013). "Acupuncture for stress urinary incontinence in adults". Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (7): CD009408. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD009408.pub2. PMID 23818069.

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