What is a urethral sling?
The urethral sling is an outpatient minimally-invasive surgery with minimal recovery time. It is the most common type of surgery used to treat stress urinary incontinence (SUI) in women. Stress urinary incontinence causes urine to leak when a person coughs, sneezes, laughs, or does certain activities (running, exercising, etc.). SUI is a pelvic floor disorder and occurs when muscles and tissues that support the pelvic floor are damaged.
The pelvic floor includes the urethra, bladder, uterus, and rectum and the area can be damaged from pregnancy, childbirth or aging. In cases when surgery is needed to treat SUI, a urethral sling can provide a ribbon of support under the urethra to prevent it from moving during physical activity.
What can I expect during the procedure?
The standard urethral sling is a small piece of synthetic mesh that is surgically placed under the urethra. However, it can also be performed by only using the patient’s body tissues without the use of mesh (called an autologous fascial sling). In either case, the sling acts as a hammock to support the urethra and the neck of the bladder to prevent exertional leakage of urine. The standard mesh technique uses smaller incisions and has a quicker recovery process compared to the autologous fascial sling. There are pros and cons to both methods that should be discussed with Dr. Antonini.
What are the benefits and risks of urethral sling surgery?
Urethral slings are an effective treatment for stress urinary incontinence. The vast majority of patients experience immediate benefits. There are some risks with any incontinence surgery to consider, such as a small chance (less than 5%) that the mesh will erode through the vaginal tissue. Bleeding, infection, chronic vaginal pain, worsened urgency, urinary retention, and other problems can also occur.
What can I expect after the procedure?
After your surgery, you may experience some discomfort for a few days or weeks. During this time, you will need to avoid putting stress on the surgical area. This includes excessive straining, heavy lifting, and strenuous exercise. Rarely, some women may find it hard to urinate or may urinate more slowly after the procedure. In these cases, you may need to use a catheter until the urinary function returns to normal.
Request an appointment at Central Texas Urogynecology & Continence Center
If you suffer from stress urinary incontinence, schedule an appointment at Central Texas Urogynecology & Continence Center. From our practice in Austin, we can assess your symptoms and provide the most effective treatment option. Request an appointment online or give us a call at 512-716-0861 to get started.