What is the pathophysiology of occult stress urinary incontinence?

Updated: Jan 22, 2021
  • Author: Sandip P Vasavada, MD; Chief Editor: Edward David Kim, MD, FACS  more...
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Stress incontinence on prolapse reduction (previously termed latent stress incontinence) is a term used to describe stress incontinence observed only after reduction of pelvic prolapse. Some believe that kinking of the urethra caused by the prolapse itself provides for at least part of the continence mechanism. These patients may have a history of stress incontinence that improved and finally resolved as their prolapse worsened.

In diagnosing occult incontinence, the goal is to avoid new-onset incontinence following surgical correction of prolapse. This may be accomplished through the use of an incontinence procedure, such as a colposuspension or sling. The diagnosis can be made by stress testing with the prolapse reduced or by pessary placement and pad testing. No particular method of prolapse reduction has been proved superior.

In a study of continent women with severe pelvic organ prolapse, reduction of the prolapse with a pessary revealed occult incontinence in 58% of cases. [17] These patients were treated with a pubovaginal sling, anterior colporrhaphy, and other appropriate reparative operations. Eighty-six percent of the patients with potential incontinence so treated had no postoperative stress-related urine loss.

The group of patients with no demonstrable occult incontinence underwent anterior colporrhaphy and additional individualized procedures. Incontinence procedures, per se, were not performed in this group. No patients had postoperative stress incontinence. Mean follow-up was 40-50 months.

This study points out that bladder neck procedures need not be performed if potential incontinence has been ruled out, even if bladder neck hypermobility is present. Indeed, incontinence procedures are not without their own morbidities and should not be performed unless necessary.

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