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Can Bariatric Surgery Help Address Urinary Incontinence?

News | Adelaide Bariatric Centre

1 Aug 2014 9:57 AM

Researchers from the University of California have discovered a surprising additional benefit of weight loss surgery: improved urinary incontinence symptoms in women.

According to Dr. Leslee Subak, the study found that nearly 50 per cent of women in weight loss surgery programs suffered from incontinence prior to the procedure. However, following bariatric surgery, the majority of these women said their symptoms had either improved or disappeared.

The women "lost almost 30 percent of their body weight, and about two-thirds who had incontinence at the start were cured at one year”, said study researcher Dr. Leslee Subak. “Among those who continued to have incontinence, their incontinence frequency improved a lot".

The women included in the study were severely obese, with a median BMI of 46. Most of the women in the study underwent either gastric bypass surgery or lap band surgery.

Health experts often refer to obesity and incontinence - as they do with obesity and type 2 diabetes - as ‘twin epidemics’. This is due to the fact that 70 per cent of women who have urinary incontinence are obese.

The improvement in incontinence symptoms continued during the study follow-up, Subak said.

"Both the weight loss and the improvement in incontinence lasted through three years. At year three, [about] 60 percent had remission," she said. Remissions were defined as less than weekly episodes of incontinence.

Dr. Amy Rosenman, a specialist in urogynecology and pelvic surgery in Santa Monica, California, said the study reflects what has been found previously by other researchers.

"There are many other studies that show weight loss improves leakage, probably due to less pressure, less weight pressing on the bladder from above and beside. So it stands to reason that bariatric surgery would also benefit [the incontinence]," she said.

In Australia, urinary incontinence affects up to 13 per cent of men and up to 37 per cent of women, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.