WEDNESDAY, July 23, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Weight-loss surgery
appears to have an additional side benefit -- it may improve
urinary incontinence symptoms in women, according to a new
The study found that nearly half of women in a weight-loss
surgery program reported having incontinence prior to the
procedure. After surgery, most of those women said their urinary
symptoms either improved or disappeared, said study researcher Dr.
Leslee Subak, professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive
sciences at the University of California San Francisco School of
The women "lost almost 30 percent of their body weight, and
about two-thirds who had incontinence at the start were cured at
one year with that amount of weight loss. Among those who continued
to have incontinence, their incontinence frequency improved a lot,"
Subak's team is due to present the findings this week at the
American Urogynecologic Society and the International
Urogynecological Association 2014 scientific meeting in Washington,
D.C. Studies presented at medical meetings are typically viewed as
preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.
The women included in the study were severely obese, with a
median BMI of 46. A women who is 5 feet 4 inches tall who weighs
268 pounds has a BMI of 46.
Health experts refer to obesity and incontinence as the "twin
epidemics." That's because 25 to 50 percent of women have urinary
incontinence, according to Subak. Of those, 70 percent are obese,
There are several types of weight loss surgery -- also known as
bariatric surgery. Most of the women in the study had procedures
known as Roux-en-Y gastric bypass or gastric banding.
The improvement in incontinence symptoms continued during the
study follow-up, Subak said.
"Both the weight loss and the improvement in incontinence lasted through three years. At year three, [about] 60 percent had remission," she said. Remissions were defined as less than weekly episodes of incontinence. "A quarter were completely dry," she noted.
The amount of weight loss was the strongest predictor of whether
incontinence would improve or go away, Subak found. Losing more
made urinary symptom improvement more likely.
Subak called the results very encouraging.
In a previous study, Subak found that a six-month focused
program of weight loss and diet information helped reduce
incontinence in obese women better than four weekly education
sessions about weight loss and physical activity.
Dr. Amy Rosenman, a specialist in urogynecology and pelvic
surgery in Santa Monica, Calif., and health sciences clinical
professor at the University of California Los Angeles David Geffen
School of Medicine, said the study findings ring true in
"I have patients who have lost weight and it ended their stress incontinence," she said. Those who lost by nonsurgical means also noticed improvement, she said.
The new findings reflect what has been found previously by other
researchers, too, said Rosenman, who is president-elect of the
American Urogynecologic Society. "There are many other studies that
show weight loss improves leakage, probably due to less pressure,
less weight pressing on the bladder from above and beside. So it
stands to reason that bariatric surgery would also benefit [the
incontinence]," she said.
Like all surgeries, bariatric surgeries are not without risk.
The procedures are accompanied by possibility of infection, blood
clots and heart attacks, among others, according to the U.S.
National Institutes of Health.
Costs for the surgery range greatly, from about $12,000 to
$26,000, but are sometimes covered under insurance policies.
Some of Subak's co-authors report advising or consulting for
companies such as Crospon, Covidien and Ethicon, which manufacture
or are involved in bariatric surgery products.
To learn more about weight loss surgery, visit
National Institutes of Health.
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