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Stress Urinary Incontinence

For women who suffer from stress urinary incontinence (SUI), the unintentional release of urine can happen at the most inconvenient and embarrassing moments – when they’re laughing, coughing or even simply walking. Because of pressure put on the bladder from weakened pelvic muscles, any sort of quick movement can cause a urinary accident.

Most common in women who have gone childbirth, menopause or a hysterectomy or who are smokers or are severely overweight, SUI is a pelvic floor dysfunction. The once-taut muscles and ligaments held the urinary bladder in place and allowed it to function normally are now stretched and weakened. The organ then drops out of its normal position and prevents the urethra, the tube that carries urine from the body, from functioning normally. Even though some men suffer from SUI complications, it is mostly a female problem.

Treating SUI

For a lot of women, SUI is embarrassing. They don’t want to talk to their doctors about it and certainly don’t want to ask the advice of friends. But when it gets bad enough and starts affecting everyday activities, many women eventually turn to their physicians. There are a number of conservative measures that doctors recommend as first-round treatments:

  • Behavior changes – The very first thing most doctor recommend is changing certain behaviors. They ask patients to drink less fluids, urinate more frequently, avoid jumping or running, lose weight and take a daily laxative to avoid constipation, which can make SUI worse.
  • Kegel Exercises – Also known as pelvic muscle training exercises, these are aimed at strengthening the muscles that control urination.
  • Medication – In the cases of mild or moderate SUI, medications work best. Some are specifically aimed at controlling overactive bladders, while other medications stop bladder contractions. Estrogen is also used in some women to improve urinary frequency and urgency.

Surgical Treatment for SUI

If the conservative measures fail, doctors will often recommend a surgical repair to the problem. There are several kinds, but they all come with risks.

  • Collagen Injections – Collagen is used to make the area around the urethra thicker to control urine leakage.
  • Retropublic suspension – For this procedure, the surgeon lifts the bladder and urethra through surgical incisions in the abdomen.
  • Vaginal Sling – Often the first choice by many surgeons, a synesthetic mesh, called transvaginal mesh (TVM), is used to support the neck of the bladder. The sling is typically attached to nearby tissue and bone.

Bladder Sling Problems

Since being introduced in 1996, bladder slings for SUI treatment have increased in popularity. However, increasing scientific research shows that TVM bladder slings cause a cascade of medical problems from pain and cramping to organ perforation. Researchers now think that the body’s immune system negatively reacts to the flexible plastic material that is used to make TVM when it is inserted through the vagina. The clean-contaminates in the vaginal area, including the E. coli and staph bacterias, see the TVM as a foreign invader and attack it. This causes the mesh product to breakdown, erode and contract up to 20 percent. This brings intense pain, bleeding and the risk of infection. The shards of mesh are known to perforate, or cut into, nearby organs including the bladder and bowel, making a bad situation even worse.

Women who have undergone surgery to remove eroded mesh find that the procedure is painstaking and difficult. It sometimes takes surgeons two to three surgical procedures, or more, to effectively remove all the tiny mesh pieces.

Because the medical manufacturers never properly tested TVM slings before marketing their products, patients have become unwitting victims. If you or a loved one is suffering from a bladder sling injury, contact our patient advocates. We can help you learn more about your legal rights.