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What is sling surgery?

Sling surgery helps women with urinary incontinence or an overactive bladder. It consists of placing a sling around the urethra to improve function. The sling lifts the urethra to its normal position, avoiding urine retention.

There are three main types of the sling surgery:

Adjustable sling - this type of sling can be adjusted during and after surgery.

Tension Free Sling - the mesh around the urethra is kept in place by the surrounding tissue and not by stitches.

Conventional Sling - these slings are created by using a synthetic material (mesh), your own tissue (tendon, ligament, muscle) or animal tissue (usually from pigs), and then they are inserted around the urethra and fastened with stitches.

What is urinary incontinence?

Urinary incontinence is the inability to control the bladder, which results in urine leaks. Some people have this problem only while sneezing or coughing, while it is a continuous problem for others, who can't even make it to the toilet.

Urinary incontinence in women is thought to be caused by a shorter urethra, pressure during the pregnancy, childbirth and aging.

A bladder sling procedure can change a patient's life when it is successful.

Risks of sling surgery include:

  • A prolapsed vagina
  • Fistula between the vagina and the skin
  • Injuries to the urethra, bladder and vagina
  • Problems emptying the bladder
  • An overactive bladder
  • Irritation around the bladder.

What to expect after sling surgery?

The recovery period varies from one person to another. It all depends on the health history and the type of the procedure performed. A full recovery usually requires from one to three months.

It will usually not be possible to urinate on your own right after surgery; be prepared to use a catheter for a week or two. Heavy lifting, swimming pools, hot baths, and sexual intercourse are not allowed until the stitches dissolve.

Serious complications after sling surgery include:

  • Mesh contraction - leads to pelvic pain and painful intercourse
  • Organ perforation during the surgery
  • Rejection of the sling - this manifests with inflammation
  • Sling migration and erosion of nearby organs, like the vagina and rectum
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Recurrent urinary tract infections
  • Internal bleeding

Some things you should consider before having the surgery

You should not have this surgery until you are done having children. The pressure during the pregnancy and childbirth may undo the benefits of the surgery. Consult your doctor if you are planning to have kids in the future.

In some cases this surgery may not cure urinary incontinence. It is very important to understand the risks and complications of this surgery, as miracles just don't happen. You may still need medication and physical therapy after surgery. In some cases a revision of the mesh and the previous surgery are required.

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