Clinical Review

2020 Update on pelvic floor dysfunction

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While evidence-based guidelines regarding postoperative voiding dysfunction are lacking, several studies add to the growing literature. Two experts provide recommendations to promote safe, efficient care of patients.



Postoperative voiding dysfunction refers to the acute inability to spontaneously and adequately empty the bladder after surgery. Postoperative voiding dysfunction occurs in 21% to 42% of pelvic reconstructive surgeries, as well as 7% to 21% of benign gynecologic surgeries.1-4 While much of its peril lies in patient discomfort or dissatisfaction with temporary bladder drainage, serious consequences of the disorder include bladder overdistension injury with inadequate drainage and urinary tract infection (UTI) associated with prolonged catheterization.4-6

Although transient postoperative voiding dysfunction is associated with anti-incontinence surgery, tricyclic antidepressant use, diabetes, preoperative voiding dysfunction, and postoperative narcotic use, it also may occur in patients without risk factors.4,7,8 Thus, all gynecologic surgeons should be prepared to assess and manage the patient with postoperative voiding dysfunction.

Diagnosis of postoperative voiding dysfunction can be approached in myriad ways, including spontaneous (or natural) bladder filling or bladder backfill followed by spontaneous void. When compared with spontaneous void trials, backfill-assisted void trial is associated with improved accuracy in predicting voiding dysfunction in patients who undergo urogynecologic surgery, leading to widespread adoption of the procedure following pelvic reconstructive surgeries.9,10

Criteria for “passing” a void trial may include the patient’s subjective feeling of having emptied her bladder; having a near-baseline force of stream; or commonly by objective parameters of voided volume and postvoid residual (PVR), assessed via catheterization or bladder scan.3,6,10 Completing a postoperative void trial typically requires significant nursing effort because of the technical demands of backfilling the bladder, obtaining the voided volume and PVR, or assessing subjective emptying.

Management of postoperative voiding dysfunction typically consists of continuous drainage with a transurethral catheter or clean intermittent self-catheterization (CISC). Patients discharged home with a bladder drainage method also may be prescribed various medications, such as antibiotics, anticholinergics, and bladder analgesics, which often depends on provider practice.

Given the minimal universal guidance available for gynecologic surgeons on postoperative voiding dysfunction, we review several articles that contribute new evidence on the assessment and management of this condition.

Continue to: How can we efficiently approach the postoperative void trial for pelvic floor surgery?


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