From the Journals

Pubovaginal sling during urethral diverticulectomy reduces stress incontinence



For women undergoing urethral diverticulectomy, adding a pubovaginal sling at the time of surgery resolved stress urinary incontinence 79% of the time, a large retrospective cohort study has found.

Doctor with patient Alexander Raths/Fotolia

However, in 66% of cases in which the diverticulectomy alone was performed, women also saw their stress urinary incontinence (SUI) resolve.

For a study published online in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Sarah E. Bradley, MD, of Georgetown University in Washington and colleagues analyzed records for 485 urethral diverticulectomies performed at 11 institutions over a 16-year period. One-fifth of patients had an autologous fascial pubovaginal sling (PVS) placed at the time of surgery.

The concomitant sling was associated with a significantly greater reduction of SUI after adjustment for prior diverticulectomy, prior incontinence surgery, age, race, and parity (adjusted odds ratio, 2.27; 95% confidence interval, 1.02-5.03; P = .043).

However, 10% of women in the sling-treated group had recurrent UTI from 6 weeks after surgery, compared with 3% of those in the diverticulectomy-only group (P = .001). Even after adjustment for higher rates of UTI before surgery in the sling group, the odds of recurrent UTI still were higher with the concomitant sling. Women within the sling group also were more likely to experience urinary retention at more than 6 weeks after surgery (8% vs. 1%; P equal to .0001).

Dr. Bradley and her colleagues noted that theirs was the largest study to date evaluating postoperative SUI in patients undergoing diverticulectomy with and without a PVS, noting that many surgeons do not routinely offer the sling at the time of diverticulectomy.

They also acknowledged a selection bias in their study. “With the previously thought theoretical increased risk of the addition of PVS, it is likely that most providers would prefer only to offer this concomitant procedure to those with significantly bothersome SUI. Additionally, the majority of women that underwent PVS (83%) came from two of the 11 participating institutions,” the researchers wrote.

In an interview, Catherine A. Mathews, MD, of Wake Forest University in Winston Salem, N.C., argued for a different interpretation of the study’s results.

“The study was beautifully done and it’s an ideal subject for a review, but in some respect the authors missed the opportunity to highlight that there was a spontaneous resolution of stress incontinence symptoms in 66% of women who received diverticulectomy alone,” Dr. Matthews said, adding that this has important implications for medical decision-making and patient choice.

“Morbidity associated with the pubovaginal sling was very low in this study, probably because it was being done by very proficient surgeons, but in many centers it is higher,” Dr. Matthews said. Even with the overall low morbidity seen in the study, “there was still a significant price to pay” for some women in the pubovaginal sling–treated group. “Recurrent UTI can be challenging to manage in the long term, with antibiotic morbidity and significant symptom bother. For the patients with urinary retention, having to manage it with a catheter is a really awful.”

Dr. Matthews said that the study made a case for interval, rather than concomitant, sling placement in women undergoing urethral diverticulectomy. “If you have a patient who insists on addressing symptoms concomitantly, this study provides good information about the long-term likelihood of two complications: urinary retention and recurrent UTI,” she said. “The vast majority of patients that I’m counseling would choose not to have the sling because of these complications.” And while avoiding reoperation may seem a good reason to opt for the PVS during diverticulectomy, the sling was not associated with a decrease in reoperations, compared with diverticulectomy alone, she noted.

“As we can see in the study, diverticulectomy itself has a high impact on stress incontinence,” Dr. Matthews continued. “If you restore the urethral anatomy and wait for the urethra to heal, you have a very good chance that the incontinence resolves.” For those women who do not see resolution and whose symptoms are still severe enough to bother them, “you’d have the flexibility postoperatively to offer not only a pubovaginal sling, but a synthetic mesh sling or a urethral bulking procedure.”

Dr. Bradley and her colleagues reported no relevant financial disclosures. Dr. Matthews disclosed financial support from Boston Scientific and serving as an expert witness for Johnson & Johnson.

SOURCE: Bradley SE et al. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2020. doi: 10.1016/j.ajog.2020.06.002.

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