Minimally Invasive Sling Puts an End to Leaky Bladders

Overactive bladder (OAB) is a common condition that affects more than 30 million Americans. Thirty percent of all men and 40 percent of all women in the United States suffer from OAB.

But the truth is, that number is probably much larger because many people living with OAB are too embarrassed to talk about it, much less ask for help.

“OAB isn’t a disease,” explains board-certified urologist Grant Chavin, M.D. “It’s the name given to a group of troubling urinary symptoms.”

The major symptom is a sudden, strong urge to urinate that can’t be controlled. Other symptoms include leaking urine, frequent urination and waking at night more than once to urinate.

Deidra Williams of Lansing struggled with OAB for nearly a decade.

“When I had to go, I couldn’t hold it,” the 48-year-old customer service representative explained. “I also had leakage with sudden movements, when I exercised and when I coughed. I even had problems when I sang in the choir at church.”

For several years, she relied on protective undergarments to avoid embarrassing accidents. Then, in 2007, she underwent a sling procedure at another hospital with another physician. Unfortunately for Deidra, it didn’t work. The symptoms continued.

“It was very frustrating to me,” she said. “I just wanted it to stop.”

So five years after her failed surgery, Deidra made an appointment to see Dr. Chavin.

Initially, he put her on medication to stop the sudden urges. “That stopped the urgency, but it didn’t stop the actual leakage,” she recalls.

Then Dr. Chavin told her about a newer procedure using a mid-urethral tension-free vaginal tape (TVT) sling. The minimally invasive surgery is done on at outpatient basis at Ingalls and helps women regain bladder control and prevent urine leakage by supporting a sagging urethra.

“Mid-urethral slings use synthetic mesh that the surgeon places midway along the urethra, the tube that allows urine to pass out of the body,” Dr. Chavin said. “When implanted, the mesh sling combines with new tissue growth to become a support structure for the urethra.”

In women, the urethra is short and located just above the vagina.

During the sling procedure, the surgeon makes a small incision between the opening of the urethra and the vagina. Using special needles attached to a synthetic sling, the surgeon passes the sling under the urethra and to each side of the lower abdomen. The surgeon pulls the ends of the tape through the incisions and adjusts them to provide the right amount of support to the urethra.

“After the sling is properly positioned, it forms a supportive cradle under the urethra, which helps prevent urine from escaping during activities or straining,” Dr. Chavin added.

“The TVT sling is the gold standard for the surgical treatment of stress urinary incontinence.”

The procedure itself is a quick 30-minute outpatient surgery that boasts a 90% success rate. The incisions are small (less than one centimeter); the recovery is fast, and the complication rate is very low.

Deidra had the outpatient procedure at Ingalls in early 2013. Following a brief recovery, she was back to work the following week. More importantly, she hasn’t had a single urine leak since, and protective undergarments are now a thing of the past.

“I’m an active person,” she added. “I like to exercise, run and sing. I can do it all now without any worries.”

Candidates for TVT sling surgery include anyone with a diagnosis of stress urinary incontinence that is healthy enough to undergo surgery.

For more information, contact Ingalls Care Connection at 708.915.CARE (2273).

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