WASHINGTON – The majority of obese women who had urinary incontinence before bariatric surgery had complete or near-complete resolution of symptoms for up to 3 years after surgery in a study of more than 1,500 women, Dr. Leslee Subak reported at the scientific meetings of the American Urogynecologic Society and the International Urogynecological Association.
These results indicate that "improvement in incontinence may be another long-term benefit of weight loss, in this case surgical weight loss," said Dr. Subak, professor of obstetrics and gynecology and reproductive sciences, epidemiology and biostatistics, and urology at the University of California, San Francisco.
The study evaluated the effect of surgery on urinary incontinence in 1,565 severely obese women who were part of the multicenter Longitudinal Cohort Study of Bariatric Surgery-2 and had completed self-administered questionnaires about urinary incontinence episodes before surgery and at one or more annual follow-up assessments within 3 years of surgery.
The results were based on outcomes of the 772 women who reported experiencing episodes of incontinence at least weekly, with an average of about 11 incontinence episodes per week. Their median age was 46 years and most were white; about 7% had undergone previous incontinence surgery and about 8% had received or were receiving behavioral treatment or medication for incontinence.
Most of the patients underwent a Roux-en-Y gastric bypass (71%) or laparoscopic adjustable gastric banding (25%). After the first year, they had lost a median of about 30% of their baseline weight, which was maintained through the third year.
At all follow-up times after surgery, there were significantly fewer incontinence episodes, compared with baseline, with a remission rate of 60%-65%, Dr. Subak said.
Urinary incontinence episodes dropped from an average of about 11 episodes per week before surgery to an average of almost 3 episodes per week at 1 year and 4 episodes per week at 2 and 3 years, she noted. Episodes of stress incontinence also decreased from an average of about 5 episodes per week at baseline to about 1 episode per week at 1 year and almost 2 episodes per week at 2 and 3 years.
The remission rate – defined as less than 1 weekly urinary incontinence episode over the past 3 months – was 70% at 1 year, dropping to and stabilizing at about 61%-62% at 2 and 3 years. Moreover, 25% of the women had a complete remission (no episodes of incontinence during the past 3 months) at 3 years, a slight increase from almost 27% at 1 year, Dr. Subak said.
"The magnitude of weight loss was the strongest predictor of improvement in incontinence over time," she noted. "Incontinence and BMI [body mass index] seemed to track together, as [whenever] there’s a reduction in BMI ... there’s a reduction in urinary incontinence episode frequency."
A younger age also was significantly associated with a reduction in the frequency or a remission of urinary incontinence, while being pregnant in the previous year and having had a hysterectomy were associated with a lower likelihood of having a remission.
Dr. Subak noted that limitations of the study included the observational design and the lack of a control group, as well as the fact that data were based on self-reports.
She referred to urinary incontinence and obesity as "twin epidemics," with about a fourfold increased risk of urinary incontinence associated with obesity. About one-third of women in the United States are obese and about 70% of women with incontinence are obese, she pointed out.
The Longitudinal Cohort Study of Bariatric Surgery-2 is funded by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Dr. Subak received additional funding from the NIDDK; she had no other disclosures.