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Can Weight Loss Surgery Ease Urinary Incontinence?

Nearly two-thirds of women had significant improvement of their symptoms, researchers report
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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 practice.

"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.

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