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World J Urol. 1997;15(5):268-74.

The pathophysiology of stress urinary incontinence in women and its implications for surgical treatment.

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Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor, USA.


Stress urinary incontinence is a symptom that arises from damage to the muscles, nerves, and connective tissue of the pelvic floor. Urethral support, vesical neck function, and function of the urethral muscles are important determinants of continence. The urethra is supported by the action of the levator ani muscles through their connection to the endopelvic fascia of the anterior vaginal wall. Damage to the connection between this fascia and muscle, loss of nerve supply to the muscle, or direct muscle damage can influence continence. In addition, loss of normal vesical neck closure can result in incontinence despite normal urethral support. Although the traditional attitude has been to ignore the urethra as a factor contributing to continence, it does play a role in determining stress continence since in 50% of continent women, urine enters the urethra during increases in abdominal pressure, where it is stopped before it can escape from the external meatus. Perhaps one of the most interesting yet least acknowledged aspects of continence control concerns the coordination of this system. The muscles of the urethra and levator ani contract during a cough to assist continence, and little is known about the control of this phenomenon. That operations cure stress incontinence without altering nerve or muscle function should not be misinterpreted as indicating that these factors are unimportant.

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