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Obstet Gynecol. 1990 May;75(5):852-8.

Urinary incontinence following radical vulvectomy.

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  • 1Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Michigan Medical Center, Ann Arbor.


Although incontinence has been reported after radical vulvectomy, its relationship to operative technique, anatomy, and treatment has not been defined. Twenty-one patients having vulvectomies for vulvar cancer were prospectively evaluated preoperatively and postoperatively with urodynamic function studies. A portion of the urethra was removed in four patients undergoing radical vulvectomy, and 14 had a vulvectomy excision that came within 1 cm of the distal urethra. Six patients (28%) developed a change of continence, with three developing total incontinence, two stress incontinence, and one urge incontinence. All four patients who had a portion of the urethra excised developed stress or total incontinence. The other two patients with incontinence (one total, one urge) had the vulvectomy excision that came close to the urethra. No patient had a change in continence when surgery did not involve or come close to the urethra. When the four patients with a distal urethral resection were compared with patients in whom the urethra was not excised, there was a significant decrease postoperatively in functional urethral length (P less than .0001), anatomical urethral length (P less than .0001), and distal urethral pressure transmission ratios in Q3 (P = .004), Q4 (P = .02), and Q5 (P = .005); but no difference in urethral support (Q-tip test), flow rates, residual urine, bladder capacity, maximal urethral pressure, resting closure pressure, or squeeze pressure. Histologic examination of urethral specimens demonstrated that a portion of the compressor urethrae muscle was often excised. Radical vulvectomy by itself does not cause incontinence, but it would appear that removal of a portion of the urethra increases the chance of incontinence.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

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