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Bladder Sling for Women

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Mar 5, 2023.

What do I need to know about a bladder sling procedure?

A bladder sling procedure is surgery to treat urinary incontinence. The sling acts as a hammock to keep your urethra in place and hold it closed when your bladder is full. The urethra is the tube that carries urine from your bladder when you urinate. A sling may be a thin strip of mesh placed under the urethra. The sling may instead be made from a piece of your tissue taken from your abdomen or thigh.

Female Urinary System

How do I prepare for surgery?

  • Your surgeon will talk to you about how to prepare. He or she may tell you not to eat or drink anything after midnight on the day of your surgery. Arrange to have someone drive you home when you are discharged.
  • Tell your surgeon about all your current medicines. He or she will tell you if you need to stop any medicine for surgery, and when to stop. He or she will tell you which medicines to take or not take on the day of your surgery.
  • Tell your surgeon about any allergies you have, including to anesthesia or medicines. You may be given an antibiotic to help prevent a bacterial infection.

What will happen during surgery?

The way your surgeon does the surgery depends on the type of sling you need. Your surgeon may make one or more incisions in your abdomen or vagina. The sling will be placed through an incision. Your surgeon will explain which sling is being used and how he or she will place it into your body. The following is general information about this type of surgery:

  • You may be given general anesthesia to keep you asleep and free from pain during surgery. You may instead be given local anesthesia to numb the surgery area. With local anesthesia, you may still feel pressure or pushing during surgery, but you should not feel pain. A small incision will be made in your vagina to insert the sling. You may also have small incisions in your lower abdomen or thigh.
  • The sling will be placed under your urethra and around the area where your urethra and bladder meet. One end of the sling will be on each side of your urethra. The ends of the sling may be stitched to your abdominal wall. Small pins or screws may instead be placed in your pelvic bone to hold the sling in place. Your surgeon will check for correct placement of the sling.
  • Any small incisions will be closed with stitches or medical glue. A bandage with antibiotic medicine may be put inside your vagina to help prevent infection.

What should I expect after a bladder sling procedure?

  • Medicines may be given to prevent or treat pain or a bacterial infection.
  • You may have vaginal bleeding or discharge for up to a week after your surgery. Use sanitary pads. Do not use tampons.
  • You may have some pelvic discomfort after your surgery.
  • You may find it hard to urinate or it may feel different than it did before surgery. You may urinate more slowly than you did before surgery. You may need to use a catheter to empty your bladder a few times a day until your function returns. You may have a Foley catheter for a short period of time to drain your urine.
  • You will need to avoid any activity that can strain your surgery area. This includes heavy lifting, strenuous exercise, or straining for a bowel movement.

What are the risks of a bladder sling procedure?

You may bleed more than expected or develop an infection. The sling may break down. You may need another procedure to fix it. You may develop long-term pain. Your bladder or other pelvic organs may be damaged during the procedure. You will need surgery to repair any damage. You may have trouble urinating, or you may still leak urine. You may develop a need to urinate urgently or more often than before surgery. You also may have pain during or after sex. You may develop a blood clot in your limb. This may become life-threatening.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

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