Urinary Control

a ‘Game-Changer’ for Homewood Executive

The urinary sphincter is a muscle that controls the flow of urine. When it’s closed, it blocks the opening of the bladder so urine doesn’t leak out. But if it’s been damaged by surgery or radiation to the prostate gland, urine loss can happen anytime…anywhere, during activity or rest.

Leonard Johnson of Homewood struggled with urinary incontinence for three years after prostate cancer. Though he survived the cancer itself, he was left with a whole new set of problems and complications.

“I had urinary incontinence for the first time in my life,” the 66-year-old fundraising executive explains. “I used four to five pads a day – sometimes as many as six or seven. The problem limited where I would go and put a damper on my lifestyle.”

An avid fitness buff, Leonard started skipping the gym because it was too much of a hassle. He tried Kegel exercises to no avail. For three years, Leonard lived with the inconvenience and embarrassment. Then he met with urologist Vikas Desai, MD.

“Normally, the urinary sphincter stays contracted until you choose to relax it to urinate. When you do, urine leaves the bladder and flows through the urethra and out of the body,” explains Dr. Desai. “But male patients who have undergone radical prostatectomy, transurethral resection of the prostate, pelvic trauma or pelvic radiation are particularly susceptible to urine leakage.”

Dr. Desai told Leonard and his wife about an artificial urinary sphincter (AUS) that could do the work of his damaged one. “An AUS is a device that works like your natural urinary sphincter,” Dr. Desai explains. “It’s made up of three parts: a urethral cuff, a pump and a balloon.

“The pump moves fluid from the cuff to the balloon,” he adds, “allowing the cuff to expand and your urethra to open. Your urethra stays open for a short time so that you can urinate. Then, the cuff will close automatically.”

Leonard had the surgery last March and was back in the gym by summer. “It has really exceeded my expectations,” he adds. “Dr. Desai told me I would regain 90 percent of my urinary control, and it looks like I have. Instead of five to seven pads, now I use maybe one.

“Before surgery, there were times I didn’t have any control,” he remembers. Leonard’s incontinence had even progressed to the point that he struggled to continue working, but the care he received at Ingalls was, “a game-changer both personally and professionally,” he explains. “I work a full-time job and I run a part-time business, and this procedure has made it possible for me to confidently travel all day, meet with people and maintain my career. I’m proud to be an active 67-year-old, and I finally have my life back.”

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