What is the efficacy of bladder training for urinary incontinence?

Updated: Jan 22, 2021
  • Author: Sandip P Vasavada, MD; Chief Editor: Edward David Kim, MD, FACS  more...
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Bladder training can be conducted with or without simultaneous pharmacotherapy. Subjective response rates of 85% and objective response rates of 50% have been achieved with short-term observation.

Symptoms of urgency and frequency can develop over time with this strategy due to decreased bladder capacity. Anticipatory pelvic floor contractions can be taught to patients to cut down on incontinence episodes. The patient is taught to perform a strong pelvic floor contraction just before anticipated episodes of increased intra-abdominal pressure, such as a cough or a sneeze.

Alternatively, bladder ultrasound may be employed. If patients need an objective demonstration that their bladder is relatively empty, a portable bladder scanner may be used.

A bladder scanner is a portable ultrasound machine that measures the amount of urine present in a patient's bladder. With this device, patients can void when their bladder fills to a certain volume visible on ultrasound rather than responding to the sensation of needing to go to the bathroom. When patients feel the urge to void, they can check the bladder using the scanner to visualize how much urine is present. If the bladder is empty, they should ignore that sensation.

Clearly, behavioral therapies can be successful in the highly motivated patient in the short-term. Long-term efficacy is much less certain, and relapse rates, when reported, have been high. In addition to a highly motivated patient, this type of therapy requires a dedicated team to provide support and reinforcement to the patient.

Modification of activity occasionally can be a solution to incontinence-related specific activities. For example, if a woman experiences incontinence only during high-impact aerobics, substitution of another fitness activity, such as swimming, may solve the incontinence problem.

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