What to Expect During a Retropubic Sling Procedure

You may find the problem embarrassing, but urinary incontinence is common in women. In fact, women are two times more likely to have difficulty controlling their bladders than men, according to the Office on Women’s Health.

Why are women more prone to this embarrassing symptom? Your reproductive organs. Pregnancy, childbirth, and menopause may affect the structure and function of your bladder or urethra, making it harder for you to maintain full control over the contents of your bladder.

The good news is that urinary incontinence is treatable. At Healthcare for Women in Oak Park and North Riverside, Illinois, our experienced OB/GYN, Dr. Lyndon Taylor, is a urogynecology specialist. He offers many treatment options, including the retropubic sling, a minimally invasive procedure for the treatment of stress urinary incontinence.

What is a retropubic sling?

For most women, symptoms of urinary incontinence improve with lifestyle modifications, such as bladder training, diet changes, and Kegel exercises. However, if you continue to struggle with urinary incontinence after making these changes, surgical interventions may be considered.

The sling surgical procedure is commonly recommended for the management of stress urinary incontinence, which is the most common type of urinary incontinence. Women often develop stress urinary incontinence from weak pelvic floor muscles (the hammock of muscles that support your bowel, uterus, and bladder), which places additional pressure on your bladder and urethra. With stress urinary incontinence, coughing, sneezing, exercising, or lifting heavy objects can lead to urine loss.

The sling consists of a mesh, either synthetic or created from your own body tissue, that serves as a hammock for your urethra or bladder and keeps your urethra closed to prevent urine leakage. The retropubic sling procedure refers to the surgical approach Dr. Taylor uses to place your sling. 

What happens during a retropubic sling procedure?

Though the retropubic sling procedure is minimally invasive, anesthesia is needed to minimize any discomfort during your surgery. Once you’re prepped and ready, Dr. Taylor makes a small cut in your vagina near the midpoint of your urethra. He then passes both ends of the sling through your vagina, placing each end on either side of the urethra. He then pulls each end of the sling through two small incisions made above your pubic bone in your hairline. 

Dr. Taylor uses a surgical camera to assess placement of your sling and moves the sling so it sits under your urethra. He then stitches your vaginal incision and pubic incisions closed.

After your procedure, you’re sent to the recovery room for monitoring. Dr. Taylor sends you home when you’re able to empty your bladder, which is usually within a few hours after the procedure. However, some women may need to spend a night or two at the hospital if they experience difficulties emptying their bladder after the procedure. 

Recovering from a retropubic sling procedure

Recovery from your retropubic sling procedure may take anywhere from 2-4 weeks. However, you should be able to resume most of your usual activities, including driving, within a week. But we recommend you avoid any strenuous activity for up to six weeks.

You may experience some pain and abdominal cramping the first few days following your surgery, but we provide pain medication to ease your discomfort. Many women also develop constipation after their retropubic sling procedure. To help keep things moving, we recommend you drink a lot of water and eat high-fiber foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

Though results vary, the majority of women report a significant improvement or complete resolution of their stress urinary incontinence following the retropubic sling procedure.

To learn more about your treatment options for incontinence from a urogynecology specialist, contact us today by phone or by booking online.

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