Collagen Injections Can Halt Stress Incontinence
WebMD News Archive
May 3, 2000 (Atlanta) -- Collagen injections appear to be a good option for
women who suffer from severe stress incontinence but don't want to have
Stress incontinence is the sudden leakage of urine caused by physical
activities that put stress on the abdomen. In a study of 55 women with this
problem, researchers from Kumatoma University in Japan found that injecting
collagen protein on both sides of the urethra relieved symptoms in about
two-thirds of the patients for longer than a year.
This type of incontinence can be triggered by running, coughing, sneezing,
even laughing. Most sufferers are women, and many are forced to wear
diaper-like pads to control this common but embarrassing problem.
As women get older, the muscles surrounding the female organs weaken as a
result of aging and of stretching during childbirth. The urethra, the opening
by which urine leaves the body, also weakens. Both these conditions can lead to
Collagen injections, a relatively simple and inexpensive outpatient
procedure, were especially effective for patients over 65, the researchers say.
Women who got the collagen shots received a local anesthetic and were done in
less than an hour. Even after two years, the success rate for the injections
was almost 60%, the researchers say.
Collagen is a natural protein that forms connective tissues in the body. The
collagen used in the injections is taken from cattle.
In the United States, collagen injections to beef up the deteriorating
muscles that support the urethra in patients with stress incontinence have been
around since the early '90s. But surgery that builds a "sling" of
supportive tissue under the urethra is generally the treatment of choice
Patients in Japan say they prefer the collagen treatment first, Masaki
Yoshida, MD, PhD, one of the study's investigators, tells WebMD. If the shots
fail after two or three tries, surgery is the logical next step, he says.
Yoshida and his colleagues presented their results at a meeting of the American
Urological Association here this week.
The Japanese scientists acknowledge many patients had some minor
complications after the collagen procedure, such as problems with urination or
too-frequent urination. But Yoshida says those generally went away within a
couple of days. Before getting the treatments, patients must be screened for
allergies because they receive a bovine serum as part of their injections.
If collagen works so well in Japan, why isn't it used more often here? The
answer appears to be that the operation's success rate is higher -- perhaps as
high as 85%. And the fix lasts much longer.
"For someone's who's young, with a long life expectancy, it's better to
go ahead and do a definitive surgery," Edward King, MD, a urologic surgeon
from Ocala, Fla., tells WebMD. King says he would only consider the injections
for patients who declined to have the operation or whose health was too poor to
- Among women with stress incontinence, collagen injections relieve symptoms
in about two-thirds of patients for more than a year.
- The collagen shots can be given under local anesthesia, and the procedure
takes less than an hour.
- Younger women who have stress incontinence may choose to have surgery
instead, because the success rate is much higher and the relief of symptoms