- A bladder lift, also known as bladder suspension surgery or colposuspension, is used to help treat stress incontinence (leakage).
- A bladder lift involves cutting into the abdomen, lifting the neck of the bladder back to its typical position, and securing it with stitches or using a sling for added support.
- If you have a severe case of stress incontinence, your symptoms interfere with your everyday life, or other treatment options haven’t helped, talk with your doctor about bladder lift surgery.
A bladder lift, also known as bladder suspension surgery or colposuspension, is used to help treat stress incontinence.
Stress incontinence is urine leakage when there’s increased pressure in your abdomen during actions like coughing, sneezing, or lifting heavy things. It’s due to weak pelvic muscles or loosened ligaments, also known as inadequate bladder outlet resistance.
People with stress incontinence may release a few drops or a large flow of urine when they sneeze, cough, jump, exercise, or laugh.
Stress incontinence is different from overactive bladder (OAB), and it’s possible to have both conditions. OAB involves an overwhelming urge to urinate immediately, whereas incontinence involves the leakage of urine from the bladder.
If you have symptoms of both OAB and stress incontinence, you likely have what is known as mixed incontinence.
You can generally manage both conditions with behavioral and physical therapy and lifestyle changes. These may be enough on their own.
If you have a severe case of stress incontinence, however, your doctor may recommend a bladder lift to help support your bladder.
A bladder lift involves cutting into the abdomen and lifting the neck of the bladder to return it to its typical position. This procedure corrects sagging in the urethra and bladder, so you’re less likely to leak urine.
When a surgeon stitches the neck of the bladder in this lifted position to secure it to nearby structures, the procedure is referred to as colposuspension.
The surgeon may also place a midurethral sling under the urethra during the surgery. The sling acts like a hammock to support the urethra and the bladder and provide increased bladder outlet resistance.
There are two types of slings:
- Artificial sling: involves a small strap made of mesh
- Traditional sling: uses a small piece of tissue taken from your own abdomen or thigh
Bladder lift surgery typically has a high success rate, and the effects can last for several years. However, urine leakage may come back over time.
However, cure rate declined steadily to about 70 percent of people by 10 years after surgery. The cure rate appears to reach a plateau at 65 to 70 percent of patients at a 20-year follow‐up.
Sling surgery is a newer procedure that seems to have similar or slightly better effectiveness as colposuspension, according to a 2021 study. More research is need on long‐term performance, though.
Bladder lifts are intended for people who have moderate to severe stress incontinence that doesn’t get better with conservative treatments like pelvic floor physical therapy and behavioral therapy.
The main symptom of stress incontinence is leaking urine during certain types of physical activities that put pressure on the bladder. These include:
- lifting something heavy
- having sexual intercourse
Urinary leakage may be the result of a weak sphincter muscle, which controls urine flow.
It may also be due to changes in the angle of the urethra. The urethra is the tube that carries urine from the bladder to the outside of your body.
Stress incontinence may also occur as you get older because these muscles tend to weaken as you age. It can also be caused by damage to the nerves of the bladder or the nervous system due to health conditions such as:
- Parkinson’s disease
- multiple sclerosis (MS)
- a stroke
People assigned female at birth are more likely to suffer from stress incontinence than people assigned male at birth. This is due to the structure of their bodies.
During pregnancy, stress incontinence can be caused by a growing uterus pressing on the bladder. Following childbirth, it may be caused by changes to the pelvic floor.
A radical prostatectomy, or surgery to remove the entire prostate gland for prostate cancer, is a common cause of stress incontinence for people with male anatomy.
Bladder lift surgeries can cost between an estimated $5,800 and $8,000. The exact amount depends on the type of procedure.
Health insurance plans typically cover bladder lift procedures, similar to other surgical procedures. They aren’t considered cosmetic procedures.
If you have health insurance, it’s a good idea to check with your plan about your out-of-pocket costs before you decide to have the procedure. Ask about deductibles, copays, and coinsurance amounts.
Bladder lift surgery is often done laparoscopically.
This means that a surgeon will make just a few small cuts in the abdomen during the surgery. To perform the surgery, they’ll use a small camera and tools inserted through tubes placed in the cuts.
Laparoscopic procedures are less invasive than open surgery. Recovery time for midurethral sling surgery and colposuspension performed laparoscopically is often much quicker than for open surgery.
You’ll most likely leave the hospital after your surgery to recover at home. In some cases, though, you may need to stay overnight.
On the other hand, a traditional sling surgery and colposuspension with abdominal surgery usually require that you stay in the hospital to recover for a few days.
You may feel some pain or cramping in your lower abdomen and may need to take pain medications for 1 or 2 weeks. Most people fully recover from this procedure in about 6 weeks.
As with any surgery, bladder lift surgery comes with some risks. These include:
- blood clots
- injury to or irritation around the vagina, bladder, or urethra
- a dropped or prolapsed vagina
- difficulty urinating after the surgery
- fistula (an abnormal opening between the bladder and the skin or another organ, most often the vagina)
If you have a severe case of stress incontinence and your symptoms interfere with your everyday life, see a healthcare professional. They may first recommend trying more conservative strategies to treat incontinence, including:
- lifestyle changes
- pelvic floor exercises
- bladder training exercises
If these strategies don’t work, a doctor may recommend bladder lift surgery to help support the bladder.
The decision to have surgery can be very personal and should be made in consultation with a surgeon, based on your medical history, your symptoms, and your preferences.