June 2012

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Health Capsule

Skip the Test Before Incontinence Surgery?

Women may be able to skip a routine bladder function test before urinary incontinence surgery. A new study shows that outcomes were similar whether patients had the test or just a check-up before the surgery.

Urinary incontinence is a loss of bladder control. It affects nearly 13 million Americans. It’s caused by problems with the muscles and nerves involved in holding and releasing urine. Stress urinary incontinence occurs when urine leaks following coughing, laughing, sneezing, exercising or other movements that put pressure on the bladder.

Pregnancy, childbirth and menopause can often lead to stress incontinence. Each year about 260,000 women choose to have surgery to treat this condition. Before surgery, tests called urodynamic studies are used to measure how well the bladder, sphincter muscles and urethra are storing and releasing urine. These bladder function tests might cause discomfort or pain, and can be costly.

NIH-funded researchers studied over 600 women with stress urinary incontinence. Before surgery, all of the women had a routine check-up. Half also had a bladder function test.

A year after surgery, several measures showed that about 77% of women in both groups had achieved treatment success.

“The findings of our study argue against routine pre-operative testing in cases of uncomplicated stress urinary incontinence, as the tests provide no added benefit for surgical treatment success but are expensive, uncomfortable and may result in complications such as urinary tract infections,” says the study’s lead author, Dr. Charles Nager of the University of California, San Diego.