The medical management of urinary incontinence

Auton Neurosci. 2010 Jan 15;152(1-2):4-10. doi: 10.1016/j.autneu.2009.09.022. Epub 2009 Nov 8.


Urinary incontinence is the involuntary leakage of urine; it affects millions of people worldwide, causing significant detrimental effects on their quality of life. Direct expenses, such as containment products, long-term drug prescriptions and surgery, complemented by indirect costs, such as reduced employment productivity, result in overall expenditure running to billions of dollars. Stress urinary incontinence (SUI) occurs on physical exertion, and results from weakness of the bladder outlet. Urgency urinary incontinence (UUI) results from inability to resist a sudden compelling desire to pass urine, arising as a consequence of bladder dysfunction. Clinical evaluation clarifies the underlying mechanisms and excludes diseases causing similar symptoms. Urodynamic studies to measure bladder and abdominal pressures and deduce the bladder and outlet function are undertaken when invasive treatments are being considered or when the nature of the incontinence is not entirely clear. Initial management of SUI involves pelvic floor muscle exercise training; if insufficient symptom improvement results, surgical measures are needed. UUI treatment commences with advice on suitable fluid intake and measures to improve ability to defer voiding, followed by antimuscarinic drugs. Refractory UUI is a difficult problem, currently managed with a range of surgical interventions, including bladder injections of botulinum-A neurotoxin, augmentation cystoplasty and nerve stimulation methods. New treatment options are needed, because of the risk of impeding voiding function, resulting in urinary retention. Persistent leakage is controlled with containment products, such as pads, or collection devices, such as catheters.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Quality of Life
  • Urinary Bladder, Overactive / etiology
  • Urinary Bladder, Overactive / surgery
  • Urinary Bladder, Overactive / therapy
  • Urinary Incontinence / economics
  • Urinary Incontinence / epidemiology
  • Urinary Incontinence / physiopathology
  • Urinary Incontinence / therapy*
  • Urinary Incontinence, Stress / surgery
  • Urinary Incontinence, Stress / therapy
  • Urinary Incontinence, Urge / drug therapy
  • Urinary Incontinence, Urge / surgery
  • Urinary Incontinence, Urge / therapy
  • Urodynamics