Urethral slings are used to treat stress incontinence (SI). SI is usually caused by sagging of the urethra and/or bladder neck, or by problems with the sphincter (muscular outlet of the bladder). This involves placing a “sling” around the urethra to lift it into place and to exert pressure on the urethra to aid in holding the urine.
The advantages of sling surgery are:
- Usually done in an outpatient setting (go home the same day)
- Quick recovery time
- Very little to no pain
- Extremely effective in eliminating incontinence
What happens during surgery?
- The operation is usually performed under local anesthesia and mild sedation, or with regional anesthesia.
- You will have one small incision in your vagina and two in your groin or lower abdomen.
- A special tape or mesh is looped under your urethra to provide lift and support.
- At the end of the procedure, the surgeon looks inside your bladder to check for bladder injury.
- The operation takes 15-30 minutes to perform.
What are the risks and possible complications?
- Damage to the bladder, urethra, or nearby blood vessels
- Blood clots
- Mesh erosion or rejection of the sling material (the sling material may wear away the tissue of the urethra or vagina)
- The stitches used to attach the sling may pull out. A small percentage of patients will have trouble urinating immediately following the procedure and may need a catheter until normal bladder emptying is established. This catheter is usually removed 3-7 days post-op.
What can I expect during recovery?
Most women return home within 24 hours of the procedure. You will be sent home once you are feeling well and are able to urinate. If you need pain relief, mild analgesics are usually enough.
It is important to rest after the operation and allow yourself to heal.
General recommendations are:
- Restrict activity for first 2 weeks following procedure
- Weeks 2-6, light activity only
- Avoid heavy lifting for 6 weeks. This includes shopping bags, laundry baskets, and children.
- No sexual activity for 6 weeks No sports or strenuous exercise for 6 weeks