Background: Pelvic floor muscle training has long been the most common form of conservative treatment for stress urinary incontinence. Weighted vaginal cones can be used to help women to train their pelvic floor muscles. Cones are inserted into the vagina and the pelvic floor is contracted to prevent them slipping out.
Objectives: To evaluate the effects of weighted vaginal cones in the treatment of women with urinary incontinence.
Search strategy: We searched the Cochrane Incontinence Group specialised register (to February 2001), MEDLINE (January 1966 to August 2001), EMBASE (January 1988 to August 2001) and reference lists of relevant articles.
Selection criteria: Randomised or quasi-randomised controlled trials comparing weighted vaginal cones with alternative treatments or no treatment in women with urinary incontinence.
Data collection and analysis: Three reviewers independently assessed studies for inclusion and trial quality. Data was extracted by one reviewer and cross checked by the others. Study authors were contacted for extra information.
Main results: Fifteen studies, involving 1126 women of whom 466 received cones, were included. All of the trials were small and in many the quality was hard to judge. Outcome measures differed between studies, making the results difficult to combine. Some studies reported high drop out rates with both cone and comparison treatments. Four of the studies recruited women with symptoms of stress incontinence without urodynamic confirmation. Six trials were only published as abstracts. Cones were better than no active treatment (RR for failure to cure incontinence 0.74, 95% CI 0.59 to 0.93). There was little evidence of difference between cones and PFMT (RR 1.09, 95% CI 0.86 to 1.38) or electrostimulation (RR 1, 95% CI 0.89 to 1.13), but the confidence intervals were wide. There was not enough evidence to show that that cones plus PFMT was different to either cones alone or PFMT alone. Only two studies used a Quality of Life measure and no study looked at economic outcomes.
Reviewer's conclusions: This review provides some evidence that weighted vaginal cones are better than no active treatment in women with stress urinary incontinence and may be of similar effectiveness to PFMT and electrostimulation. This conclusion must remain tentative until further larger high quality studies are carried out using comparable and relevant outcome measures. Some women treated with cones, pelvic floor muscle training or electrostimulation drop out of treatment early. Therefore, cones should be offered as one option so that if women find them unacceptable they know there are other treatments available.