Roughly One in Five Women Will Have Surgery for Urinary Incontinence or Pelvic Organ Prolapse

By the age of 80, an estimated 20% of privately insured women will undergo surgery for stress urinary incontinence or pelvic organ prolapse. These results were presented at the 34th Annual Scientific Meeting of the American Urogynecologic Society.

Urinary incontinence refers to the involuntary loss or leakage of urine. Factors that can contribute to incontinence include nerve problems, childbirth, menopause, and prostate problems. Stress urinary incontinence refers to the loss of urine when pressure is put on the bladder. Pressure on the bladder can be caused by activities such as laughing, coughing, sneezing, or lifting. For people with incontinence, the amount of urine lost can range from only a few drops to a much larger amount.

Pelvic organ prolapse is another common problem in women. In this condition, organs in the pelvis—such as the bladder, uterus, vagina, or rectum—drop from their normal position. This can occur when the tissue and muscle that support these organs become weakened or damaged.

Both of these conditions have a range of treatment options, including surgery. To evaluate the frequency of surgery for stress urinary incontinence or pelvic organ prolapse in women, researchers collected information from a large database of privately insured women.

The percentage of women who had undergone surgery for either stress urinary incontinence or pelvic organ prolapse was 11% by the age of 60, but increased to 20% by the age of 80.

These results highlight how common these problems are in women. Women who are experiencing urinary or other pelvic problems are advised to talk with their physician. Treatments are available.

Reference: Wu J et al. Lifetime risk of surgery for stress incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse. Presented at: AUGS 34th Annual Scientific Meeting. October 16-19, 2012. Las Vegas, NV. Paper 32.

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