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Surgeries for female stress incontinence


Surgeries for female stress incontinence help control involuntary leakage of urine by supporting the structure of the urethra and bladder.

Alternative Names:

Urethral suspension; Marshall-Marchetti-Krantz operation; MMK; Pubovaginal sling; Burch procedure; Trans-vaginal tape procedure; TVT procedure; Vesicourethral suspension; Transobturator tape procedure; TOT procedure


Open bladder and urethral surgeries are usually performed to prevent urine leakage that occurs with stress incontinence.

Stress incontinence is an involuntary leakage of urine that occurs when laughing, coughing, sneezing, or lifting. The condition can be caused by deformity or damage to the urethra, bladder, or pelvic muscles. Multiple births and menopause can cause a loss of muscle tone in the bladder area.

The bladder may sag into or outside the vagina. You may feel this during sexual intercourse. You may see the bladder protruding outside of the vagina.

Surgery is done to try and return the bladder and urethra to their normal position. Surgery may require general anesthesia, local anesthesia, or regional (spinal) anesthesia.

There are two common ways of performing stress incontinence surgery: through the abdominal wall or though the vagina. Less invasive approaches, such as through the vagina, have become more popular than traditional open approaches because of their effectiveness.

You may return from surgery with a Foley catheter or a suprapubic catheter in place. The urine may appear bloody at first. This should go away over time. How long the Foley or suprapubic catheter stays in place depends on your ability to completely empty your bladder. It may be removed several days after surgery. In rare cases, it may stay in place for a longer period of time.

Another treatment option uses a tube to view the bladder area (cystoscope) and inject a bulking agent such as collagen into the urethra. Such injections help make the opening of the urethra smaller, which prevents urine loss.

Why the Procedure Is Performed:

Repair of the bladder and urethra may be recommended for treating stress incontinence.


Risks for these types of surgeries may include:

  • Bladder or urethra injury
  • Incomplete cure of stress incontinence
  • Urinary retention
  • Overactive bladder

Risks for any anesthesia are:

  • Reactions to medications
  • Problems breathing
Risks for any surgery are:
  • Bleeding
  • Infection
After the Procedure:

This surgery can be very helpful for patients with stress incontinence.

Outlook (Prognosis):

The amount of time it takes to recover from surgery depends on the individual. Your health care provider can give you a good estimate of your recovery time based on an evaluation of your health status before surgery.


Keegan PE, Atiemo K, Cody J, McClinton S, Pickard R. Periurethral injection therapy for urinary incontinence in women. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2007;(3):CD003881.

Albo ME, Richter HE, Brubaker L, Norton P, Kraus SR, Zimmern PE, et al. Burch colposuspension versus fascial sling to reduce urinary stress incontinence. N Engl J Med. 2007;356:2143-2155.

Rogers RG. Clinical practice: urinary stress incontinence in women. N Engl J Med. 2008;358:1029-1036.

Review Date: 5/22/2008
Reviewed By: Scott M. Gilbert, MD, Department of Urology, Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center, New York, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. Copyright 2002 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

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