Prolapse surgery and urinary incontinence

Prolapse surgery is based on pelvic Floor anatomy

  • the support mechanisms in the anterior, middle and posterior compartment
  • the upper vagina is horizontal and rests upon the levator plate
    Prolapse surgery

    Pelvic floor anatomy

  • the anatomy of the levator ani muscles
  • the role of the muscles, innervation and of the ligaments

Pelvic floor prolapse and/or urinary incontinence is frequent  in over 10% of older women

This is caused by  damage during delivery  of the support system i.e. rupture of ligaments or attachments  together with weakening of the support system by age or collagen decrease such as menopause without hormone replacementPrevention, therefore  is hormone replacement therapy.

being mainly a mechanical problem therapy  will be mainly the repair the support system (vaginal or laparoscopic surgery, by site specific repair or mesh repair.) and when needed muscle training


Our strategic choices for prolapse surgery

In older women with health problems  vaginal surgery  under local or epidural anesthesia is preferable i.e.vaginal hysterectomy, and / or vaginal wall repair and TOT for urinary incontinence

In all other women  

  • For Stress urinary incontinence without a cystocoele (bladder descent)  is  a TOT (transobturator tape) the method of choice with excellent results in over 90%.  If this fails (10%) a laparoscopic Burch should b considered (A TVT as first intervention has only historical significance. It was a major step forward 10 years ago, but TOT has the same results and less complications.)
  • For an isolated (large) cystocoele with or without stress incontinence  An anterior mesh repair is preferred for a pure mid-line defect, For the more frequent a lateral defect  without major descent of the uterus are a vaginal mesh repair  or a promontofixation with subtotal hysterectomy or a vaginal hysterectomy (with 30% recurrences) the methods of choice. A paravaginal repair with a laparoscopic Burch is rather historical
  • For an isolated rectocoele with or without enterocoele.   For a low defect only we prefer a vaginal colporaphia posterior and perineal body repair. For larger defect we prefer to start with a laparoscopy and to decide during laparoscopy whether to perform a high McCall procedure with a levator plasty or or a promontofixation 

Combined defects with  uterine prolapse and cystocoele and rectocoele require choices which unfortuantely vary with the skills of the surgeon rather than with the quality of results. 

  • a vaginal hysterectomy + colporaphia anterior and posterior  is the “classic” approach, with a  high recurrence rate around 20% to 30%. This is not surprising since this type of surgery does not repair the defect. 
  • a subtotal laparoscopic hysterectomy + a promontofixation   has excellent Long term results has become the method of choice. However, it requires a surgeon with the skills to do this in less than 3 hours. 
  • a sequential treatment starts with a vaginal hysterectomy and colporaphia’s.  In those with the 20-30% recurrences a laparoscopic promontofixation is performed

Our attitude:  We personally prefer option 2 since it requires only 1 surgery.


Site specific repairs

Para-vaginal defect and Burch are a site specific repair since a prolapse of the bladder is in 95% caused by a detachment of the suspension from the bone. This has been replaced by a promontofixation

Levator plasty - High Mc Call - Colposuspension repairs a posterior descent and prolapse of the vaginal cuff.  Although a promontofixation is superior, the mesh discussion  has emphasised the clinical judgement .

  • a high McCall :(= shortening of uterosacral ligaments)
  • -………………..+ a levator plasty (repair of the defect between the levator ani muscle)
  • -……………………………………….+ a mesh attached to the uterosacral ligaments
  • -……………………………………….+ a mesh attached to the promontorium when uterosacral ligaments are defective.


Urinary incontinence

Two types :  Stress incontinence is  a loss of drops of urine when walking, coughing, laughing. This is a mechanical problem caused by a bladder descent or insufficient support of the bladder neck.  Urgency  is coming too late  and losing of a lot of urine,  an over-active bladder with many causes

Predisposing factors are those of prolaps of the anterior vaginal wall., ie  vaginal deliveries and a decreased quality of the support without hormone replacement 

The diagnosis  is mainly clinical.   The clinical exam gives information on vaginal descent and the quality of the pelvic floor muscles.  The usefulness of urodynamic exams is controversial and limited,  except for very rare diseases of bladder neck incontinence.  colpo-cysto-defecography is experimental or unclear without any clinically proven usefulness. Also ultrasound is still unclear whether useful 

Treatment of stress urinary incontinence is surgery . Without cystocoele (anterior vaginal wall prolapse)  is a TOT  the treatment of choice. TVT is outdated as first line therapy.  With severe anterior vaginal wall descent: is a vaginal mesh with a TOT the best strategy.   For urinary incontinence with anterior vaginal wall descent and descent of the uterus  is promontofixation the method of choice. A simultaneous TOT should not be performed because of the risk or over-correction and urinary retention. The major complication is a mesh erosion.

 Meshes for prolapse surgery and urinary incontinence in gynecology

Why a mesh .  Pelvic floor prolapse is a mechanical problem caused by insufficiently solid support tissues or by a tear of the support tissue   A decrease in quality of the support tissue should be treated by reinforcement with a mesh

Which mesh. Pros and cons ?  Prolypropylene meshes with large holes and light weight are the standard. We do not use organic meshes since rather experimental. However meshes are not without complications such as mesh erosion in 5 to 7% of vaginal meshes. Other intra-abdominal complications as bowel obstructions are rare.

What to do and who should do it ?

floor surgery

The main problem is the skill of the surgeon : mesh surgery seems easy surgery but is not.


Recent concern on the use of meshes and FDA recommendations

In the October 2012 newsletter of the Australian endoscopy society recent concerns on the use of meshes are discussed together with the FDA recommendations concerning training.  The key issue however is not addressed : the main problem are the surgeons not the meshes. FDA recommends obtaining knowledge and training in vaginal and vaginal mesh surgery.
- what is missing is that unless the surgeon is equally skilled in laparoscopic surgery and promontofixation, it is unlikely that a fair balance of vaginal versus laparoscopic surgery will be offered to the patient. In addition
- what is missing is that evidence of knowledge and training is limited to presence at meetings. The skills itself are never assessed. This is another nice example that video-registration should be mandatory.


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