What is artificial sphincter surgery for male urinary incontinence?

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Anthony L. Komaroff, MD
Internal Medicine
For men with intractable incontinence caused by sphincter weakness, the artificial sphincter (a fluid-filled cuff surgically placed around the urethra to prevent urine from leaking out) is a possible solution. After it is surgically inserted, the fluid-filled cuff compresses the urethra (the tube that connects the bladder to the outside of the body) to stop the flow of urine. To allow urination, a man squeezes a small pump to open the cuff and allow urine to pass. The cuff automatically refills.
Marc B. Garnick, MD
Hematology & Oncology
For severe urinary incontinence in men, there are several surgical procedures that can be performed to achieve dryness. One option is the surgical placement of an artificial sphincter, which is considered the leading therapy for severe incontinence following prostate cancer surgery. In this procedure, a surgeon places a fluid-filled inflatable cuff around the urethra and a small pump in the scrotum. When inflated, the cuff squeezes the urethra tightly closed, preventing urine from escaping. When a man is ready to urinate, he squeezes the pump located in his scrotum, which deflates the cuff enough so that urine can flow. The cuff then reinflates on its own.

Success rates for artificial sphincter surgery are relatively high. In a study of 47 men who were followed for an average of three years, 87% reported regaining continence, and 95.7% of the men said that they were satisfied with the operation. Continence isn't restored immediately, however. It may take four to six weeks to heal from the surgery, during which time the pump cannot be activated.

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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.