Minimally Invasive Surgery for Incontinence

   Blair Washington, MD, MHA, Urogynecologist

Virginia Mason’s urogynecology and urology teams, in Seattle, WA, are experts in the treatment of urinary incontinence in women. Up to 45 percent of women in the United States suffer from some degree of urinary incontinence, and approximately 30 percent of these women suffer from stress urinary incontinence, or SUI. SUI is leakage that occurs with exertion like coughing, laughing, exercise, or any other strenuous activity.

Blair Washington, MD, MHA, is a board-certified urogynecologist with additional fellowship training in Female Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery. Dr. Washington has extensive experience in the diagnosis and treatment of SUI, including surgical sling procedures, using proven materials and minimally invasive techniques that help women return to healthy, active lifestyles.

For more information about treatments for incontinence, contact Dr. Washington’s office by calling (206) 223-6191.

What is urinary incontinence?

Urinary incontinence is the involuntary loss of urine. It is a very common condition that affects women of all ages. The amount of leakage can vary significantly, ranging from drops to tablespoons, to larger amounts. Some women require liners, while others require pads or diapers. The degree of bother from urinary incontinence is not necessarily related to the amount of leakage.

How is urinary incontinence evaluated?

Your evaluation for urinary incontinence may include:

  • A complete medical history
  • Physical exam, including a pelvic exam
  • Bladder diary — you may be asked to record information about your voiding habits and urinary leakage

You may also need to undergo tests to help determine the best treatment option:

  • Urodynamics — evaluation of how your bladder and urethra are working
  • Cystoscopy — looking inside your bladder and urethra with a small telescopic camera
  • Other radiologic tests — ultrasound, CT scan, MRI

How is urinary incontinence treated?

There are various treatments available for urinary incontinence ranging from medical to minimally invasive surgical procedures. The specific treatment will depend on the type and severity of your urinary incontinence. Before we start treatment for your urinary incontinence, it is very important to determine what type of incontinence you have:

  • Stress urinary incontinence
  • Urgency incontinence
  • Mixed (both stress and urgency incontinence)

Knowing the type of incontinence will help us to create the best treatment plan for you.

Minimally Invasive Surgical Treatment for Stress Urinary Incontinence

Sling surgery
Sling surgery is one minimally invasive treatment option for stress urinary incontinence. Sling surgery is a minimally invasive procedure where a supportive material is placed under the urethra to prevent or significantly improve incontinence. There are various slings available, all of which work by acting like a hammock to support the urethra. Many slings are made of synthetic mesh. There are also non-mesh alternatives, including making a sling with strong tissue from your body.

The type of sling used will depend on multiple factors. Dr. Washington will discuss with you the available options and which is best for you.

Sling surgery is usually a same-day surgery (outpatient), but if additional procedures are needed, such as prolapse repairs, you may have to stay overnight. For more information about surgery for incontinence, contact Dr. Washington’s office, in the Gynecology Department, by calling (206) 223-6191.