Incontinence after Prostate Surgery Often Misunderstood

Interestingly, many men facing prostate surgery don’t even know how good their options are for treating potential long-term incontinence. "Unfortunately, there’s a lot of misinformation out there, and many men think that if they have prostate surgery, they’re most certainly going to develop incontinence, just as their fathers did with their surgeries," says Dr. Sarram. "We need to let men know about these advancements." Dr. Sarram notes three important factors surrounding incontinence following prostate surgery:

  1. The chances of incontinence over the long term (at least 9–12 months) are small.
  2. If there’s incontinence in the long run, most of the time it’s very minimal.
  3. If the minimal incontinence is bothersome to men, there’s a fix available—the male sling procedure.

Dr. Jonathan Seidlin, who has developed a successful program identifying and treating men who suffer from urinary incontinence,leads the male incontinence program at Advanced Urology. Though performed at Sky Ridge by Dr. Sarram and his partner, Dr. Seidlin, the male sling isn’t widely used at this point. But with the frequency of prostate surgery, this highly successful procedure for combating male incontinence is encouraging and fortunately available.

"It’s amazing," says Dr. Sarram. "Prostate surgery is very common, so if you assume that 10-15% of these men have long-term incontinence, there are a lot of men walking around who have some incontinence, who are socially embarrassed by it, and who limit their activities and lifestyle. If these men knew about this procedure, they would come in, get it done and it would change their lives. For the men we’ve performed it on, they’re really happy with it."

Sling Patient Discusses His Experience

"It’s not embarrassing or inconvenient for me anymore, and psychologically that’s huge. I was able to get back to my old self." –Don Hicks

That’s certainly the case for Don Hicks, a 58-year-old facilities administrator and Sky Ridge’s first patient to receive the male sling. After surgery in 2002 for prostate cancer, Don had moderate incontinence that was “embarrassing and very inconvenient,” he says. "There were occasions in my job, like heavy lifting, that would cause incontinence. Plus, I’m a pretty active individual. We like to ski, hunt, fish and hike, and I love to work in my yard. After several years, it started to really wear on me. I decided that I was too young and too active to be bothered with this kind of problem."

"It’s not embarrassing or inconvenient for me anymore, and psychologically that’s huge. I was able to get back to my old self." –Don Hicks, patient

Don first consulted a urologist who told him about the artificial urinary sphincter, which didn’t strike Don as a good choice for several reasons, particularly how invasive the procedure was. That’s when Don turned to Dr. Sarram. Already aware of the male sling procedure, Dr. Sarram decided to forge ahead and bring it to Sky Ridge. In May 2007, Dr. Sarram performed his first male sling procedure on Don, a self-described "happy guinea pig." "I was willing to try anything," says Don.

Following the normal recovery period of four to six weeks, and after doing the muscle-strengthening exercises recommended by Dr. Sarram, Don was able to return to his normal activities without worry. Well, almost. "At first, I was extremely nervous about not using the pads," says Don. "I even tested out the sling, drinking a lot of water. But it held up very, very well. It’s not embarrassing or inconvenient for me anymore, and psychologically that’s huge. I was able to get back to my old self."

Don says Dr. Sarram was instrumental in getting his life back to normal. "To his credit, Dr. Sarram is a concerned doctor who is always looking for new procedures that will enhance a person’s life after the kind of traumatic surgery I had. So hat’s off to Dr. Sarram that he did what was necessary to help me."

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