How are bulking agents used for urinary incontinence?

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For some people with urinary incontinence, injection of a bulking agent can reinforce the tissue around the urethra (the tube that connects the bladder to the outside of the body). Injection of bulking agents takes 10 to 30 minutes and can be performed in the physician's office or as an outpatient procedure in the hospital. Using a cystoscope (a lighted telescope at the end of a thin tube) for viewing, the doctor places a needle into the urethra and injects the bulking agent into the tissue alongside the urethra. A few injections may be given during one session. Although the procedure is minimally invasive and can be considered nonsurgical, you will be given either local anesthesia, a light general anesthesia, or sedation. Only small amounts of bulking agents are injected at one time, so more than one treatment may be needed to achieve satisfactory results. Physicians must be cautious about injecting too much; if the urethra becomes blocked, some of the materials that are used may need to be removed surgically.

For the first day or two after an injection of bulking agents, you may feel irritation when you urinate. You might even need to use a catheter to drain the bladder intermittently until swelling goes down in the area of the injection. After a few days, you should be able to return to normal activities.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.