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Urinary Incontinence in Adults: Acute and Chronic Management

© Agency for Health Care Policy and Research

There are many different surgical procedures that may be used to treat incontinence. The type of operation you may need depends on the type and cause of your incontinence. Your doctor will discuss the specific procedure you might need.


Be sure to ask questions so that you fully understand the procedure.

Other Measures and Supportive Devices
Some other products can be used to help manage incontinence. These include pads and catheters. Catheters are used when a person cannot urinate. A catheter is a tube that is placed in the bladder to drain urine into a bag outside the body. The catheter usually is left inside the bladder, but some catheters are not left in. They are put in and taken out of the bladder as needed to empty it every few hours. Condom catheters (mostly used in men) attach to the outside of the body and are not placed directly in the bladder. Specially designed pads are available to help men and women with incontinence.


Catheters and pads are not the first and only treatment for incontinence. They should only be used to make other treatments more effective or when other treatments have failed.

What To Do Next
Your health care provider will tell you about the type of incontinence you have and will recommend a treatment. While you are being treated, be sure to:

  • Ask questions
  • Follow instructions
  • Take all of your medicine
  • Report side effects of your medicine, if any
  • Report any changes, good and bad, to your health care provider


...and remember, incontinence is not a natural part of aging. In most cases, it can be successfully treated and reversed.

Risks and Benefits of Treatment
Three types of treatment are recommended for urinary incontinence:

  • Behavioral techniques
  • Medicine
  • Surgery

How well each of these treatments works depends on the cause of the incontinence and, in some cases, patient effort. The risks and benefits described below are based on current medical knowledge and expert opinion. How well a treatment works may also depend on the individual patient. A treatment that works for one patient may not be as effective for another patient. Therefore, it is important to talk with a health care provider about treatment choices.

Behavioral techniques.There are no risks for this type of treatment.

Medicine. As with most drugs, there is a risk of having a side effect. If you are taking medicine for other conditions, the drugs could react with each other. Therefore, it is important to work with the health care provider and report all of your medicines and any side effects as soon as they happen.

Surgery. With any surgery there is a possibility of a risk or complication. It is important to discuss these risks with your surgeon.

Coping with Incontinence
Several national organizations help people with urinary incontinence. They may be able to put you in touch with local groups that can give you more information, ideas, and emotional support in coping with urinary incontinence.

Alliance for Aging Research (information on bladder training program)
2021 K Street, N.W.
Suite 305
Washington, DC 20006
(202) 293-2856
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Disclaimer: The information provided on HealthWorld Online is for educational purposes only and IS NOT intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek professional medical advice from your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.