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Urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse in women: management

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Last updated:13th Aug 2019

This guideline covers assessing and managing urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse in women aged 18 and over. It also covers complications associated with mesh surgery for these conditions.

In June 2019, we withdrew recommendations 1.8.21 and 1.8.22 on the use of synthetic polypropylene or biological mesh insertion for women with recurrent anterior vaginal wall prolapse. We have replaced them with a link to the NICE interventional procedures guidance on transvaginal mesh repair of anterior or posterior vaginal wall prolapse. For further details see update information.

Urinary incontinence is a common symptom that can affect women of all ages, with a wide range of severity and nature. Although it is rarely life-threatening, urinary incontinence can be very detrimental to the physical, psychological and social wellbeing of the women it affects. The impact on families and carers can also be profound, and the resource implications for the health service are considerable. Urinary incontinence is defined by the International Continence Society as 'the complaint of any involuntary leakage of urine'.

Urinary incontinence can be a result of functional abnormalities in the lower urinary tract or of illnesses. Stress urinary incontinence is involuntary urine leakage on effort, exertion, sneezing or coughing. Urgency urinary incontinence is involuntary urine leakage accompanied or immediately preceded by urgency (a sudden compelling desire to urinate that is difficult to delay). Mixed urinary incontinence is involuntary urine leakage associated with both urgency and exertion, effort, sneezing or coughing. Overactive bladder (OAB) is defined as urgency that occurs with or without urgency urinary incontinence and usually with frequency and nocturia. OAB that occurs with incontinence is known as 'OAB wet'. OAB that occurs without incontinence is known as 'OAB dry'. These combinations of symptoms are suggestive of the urodynamic finding of detrusor overactivity, but can be the result of other forms of urethrovesical dysfunction.

Pelvic organ prolapse is defined as symptomatic descent of 1 or more of: the anterior vaginal wall, the posterior vaginal wall, the cervix or uterus, or the apex of the vagina (vault or cuff). Symptoms include a vaginal bulge or sensation of something coming down, urinary, bowel and sexual symptoms, and pelvic and back pain. These symptoms affect women's quality of life.

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