Urethral sling surgeries to treat urinary incontinence involve placing a sling around the urethra to lift it back into a normal position and to exert pressure on the urethra to aid urine retention. The sling is attached to the abdominal (belly) wall.
The sling material may be muscle, ligament, or tendon tissue taken from the woman or from an animal, such as a pig. It may also be composed of synthetic material such as plastic that is compatible with body tissues or of absorbable polymer that disintegrates over time.
These surgeries involve deep incisions, so hospitalization is required. To allow the urinary tract to heal, a thin, flexible tube (catheter) is placed into the bladder through the urethra or belly wall to allow urine to drain.
You will likely go home 2 to 3 days after the surgery if there have been no complications. After you are at home, expect a 2- to 4-week recovery period, during which you should refrain from doing too much work or strenuous activities of any kind.
The amount of pain you have after surgery depends on the exact nature of your procedure, your physical condition at the time of surgery, and your own response to pain. You will probably feel some pain at the incision site and may feel some cramping in your abdomen. Your doctor will prescribe medicine to relieve your discomfort during the first few days after surgery. Be sure to call your doctor if you cannot get relief from pain.
Many women have some constipation after this surgery. You can try some things to avoid constipation:
Tell your doctor if you still have constipation after you have tried these methods.
The urethral sling procedure may be used for women who have stress incontinence:
Sling surgeries are as effective as other surgeries to cure stress urinary incontinence in women. About 8 out of 10 women are cured after this surgery.1
Complications of urethral sling surgery may include:
All surgeries that use general anesthesia carry a small risk of complications or death.
The urethral sling procedure is more complicated than the other surgical methods for correcting stress incontinence and involves a greater risk of damage to the urethra. It is sometimes done after other surgery for stress incontinence has failed.
Using a woman's own tissue for sling material eliminates problems with rejection of the sling. It also reduces the risk of the wearing away (erosion) of the urethra or vagina. But using a woman's own tissue increases surgery time and increases the number of incisions required. This is because the sling tissue must be taken from the woman's body.
Before having surgery for urinary incontinence, ask your doctor about the following:
Last Revised: September 11, 2012
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