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    ACOG Guidelines: Urinary Incontinence in Women

    COMMITTEE ON PRACTICE BULLETINS—GYNECOLOGY AND THE AMERICAN UROGYNECOLOGIC SOCIETY PRACTICE Bulletin No. 63: Urinary Incontinence in Women (Replaces Practice Bulletin No. 63, June 2005). American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Obstet Gynecol. 2016;126:e66–81. Full text of ACOG Practice Bulletin available to ACOG members at http://www.acog.org/Resources%20And%20Publications/Practice%20Bulletins/....

    Urinary Incontinence in Women

    Urinary incontinence, the involuntary leakage of urine, is caused by a variety of factors and may result in a wide range of urinary symptoms that can affect women’s physical, psychological, and social well-being and sometimes can impose significant lifestyle restrictions. Identifying the etiology of each woman’s urinary incontinence symptoms and developing an individualized treatment plan is essential for improving her quality of life. The purpose of this joint document of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Urogynecologic Society is to review information on the current understanding of urinary incontinence in women and to outline guidelines for diagnosis and management that are consistent with the best available scientific evidence.


    Taking a systematic approach to urinary incontinence 


    By John O L DeLancey, MD

    Dr Delancey is the Norman F Miller Professor of Gynecology; Director, Pelvic Floor Research; and Group Director, Fellowship in Female Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery at University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor. He is also a member of the editorial board of Contemporary OB/GYN.

    The recently published ACOG Practice Bulletin #155, Urinary Incontinence in Women, is a well-written piece that provides a well-researched and practical view of contemporary incontinence evaluation and management.1

    The committee provides a useful classification for stress and urge urinary incontinence but also appropriately covers other diagnoses such as urethral diverticulum, ectopic ureter and neurologic disease. The authors appropriately support the high value of basic office evaluation of incontinence. All ob/gyns should be comfortable in offering this workup to patients as none of the elements requires special training. This systematic approach establishes a diagnosis in the majority of otherwise healthy women who have mild to moderate degrees of urinary incontinence. 

    Office evaluation

    Recommended aspects of the evaluation include: 1) history; 2) urinalysis; 3) physical examination; 4) demonstration of stress urinary incontinence (SUI); 5) assessment of urethral mobility; and 6) measurement of postvoid residual (PVR) urine volume. PADS is an easy-to-remember mnemonic for key elements which stands for Post-void residual urine determination, urine Analysis, voiding Diary, and full bladder Stress test.

    In a busy office with a tight schedule, all that is needed at a visit is to identify that a woman has incontinence. She can then be given a voiding diary to complete and scheduled for another visit with a full bladder so that a full-bladder stress test can be done and then a PVR urine can be obtained by catheterization providing sterile urine for evaluation.

    The full-bladder stress test is the cornerstone of physical examination because it reliably determines whether the physical finding of SUI is present, and the bulletin appropriately describes proper performance. Leakage must be simultaneous with a cough because a cough sometimes elicits a detrusor contraction that follows the cough. I would add that this test should be done while the bladder is “comfortably full” because if it is over-full—and especially if there is a sense of urgency (probably because of increased detrusor tone)—SUI may be seen when it isn’t present at lower volumes.

    Finally, once SUI is demonstrated, a woman should be asked if this is the type of incontinence that she is bothered by. It is not uncommon in a referral practice to see women who have “failed” incontinence surgery because they were troubled by urge incontinence preoperatively but had a positive stress test and rare SUI that was not bothersome.

    Two common errors are making the diagnosis of SUI based on the finding of urethral mobility and assuming that a woman has SUI because detrusor contractions are not found on examination. Urodynamics provides important information in women when the cause is not obvious from simpler evaluations and provides valuable information about first urge to void and bladder capacity, and it can document detrusor instability in some patients and be used to evaluate voiding difficulties.


    NEXT: Behavior and lifestyle modifications >>


    John O.L. DeLancey, MD
    DR. DELANCEY is Professor of Gynecology, director of Pelvic Floor Research, University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor, MI.


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