The vaginal sling procedure is also called the pubovaginal sling procedure.
It’s a type of surgery used to treat urinary incontinence in women.
Urinary incontinence is the medical term for the inability to control your
bladder. This condition leads to the leakage of urine. For example, you may
experience urine leakage after coughing or sneezing. Or you may experience
strong and sudden urges to urinate, which lead to urine leakage when you can’t
make it to a toilet in time. If you have severe urinary incontinence that
affects your daily life, your doctor may recommend a vaginal sling procedure to
When you urinate, a circular-shaped muscle around your bladder relaxes and
releases urine into your urethra. Your urethra is the tube that leads from
your bladder to the outside of your body. In the vaginal sling procedure, your
surgeon will use a piece of tissue or synthetic material to make a sling around
your urethra. This will help keep your urethra closed and prevent urine
Purpose of the
vaginal sling procedure
The vaginal sling procedure is one treatment option for stress urinary
incontinence in women. Depending on how severe your urinary incontinence is,
your doctor may prescribe other treatment options first. If those treatments
don’t work, your doctor may recommend the vaginal sling procedure. They may
also recommend this procedure if you have a severe case of urinary incontinence
and your bladder problems disrupt your everyday life.
Types of vaginal slings
The two main types of vaginal slings are conventional slings and tension-free
Conventional slings are made from one of the following:
- synthetic material
- animal tissue
- tissue from your body
- tissue from a deceased person’s body
Your doctor will place this tissue or synthetic material around your urethra
and fasten it with stitches.
Tension-free slings or vaginal tapes are usually made of mesh. Your doctor
will place this material around your urethra. Instead of using stitches to secure
it, they’ll use the surrounding tissues in your body to keep it in place.
Risks of the vaginal sling procedure
Any time you have surgery or an opening is made in your skin, risks are
involved. These risks include:
- blood clots
- breathing problems
The vaginal sling procedure also involves other specific risks, including:
- injury to or irritation around your vagina, bladder, or
- other changes in your vagina, such as a dropped or
- development of a fistula, which is an abnormal connection
or tunnel between your skin and vagina
- overactive bladder or problems emptying your bladder
Over time, the material used to create the sling can break down and create other
health issues. If you’re an older adult and you’ve already gone through
menopause, your doctor may advise you to avoid the vaginal sling procedure.
Preparation for the procedure
Before you have a vaginal sling procedure, tell your surgeon about any
medications you’re taking. Your surgeon may ask you to stop taking certain
medications a few days or hours before your surgery, including medications that
thin your blood, such as warfarin, aspirin, and ibuprofen. They may also ask
you to avoid eating or drinking anything for six to 12 hours before your surgery.
Be sure to dress in comfortable clothing and arrange for a ride home.
happens during this procedure?
Before your surgery begins, you’ll undergo general anesthesia or spinal
anesthesia to prevent pain during the procedure. Your healthcare team will
likely insert a catheter, or tube, into your bladder to drain your urine.
During the procedure, your surgeon will make a small incision inside of your
vagina. They may also make an additional incision in your abdomen, above your
pubic bone, or on each side of your labia. They’ll insert the sling, which is a
strip of tissue or synthetic material, through your incisions. Then, they’ll
secure the sling around your urethra, with or without stitches.
to expect after the procedure
The vaginal sling procedure is usually performed on an outpatient basis. That
means you’ll probably leave the hospital after your surgery to recover at home.
In some cases, you may need to stay in the hospital for one to two nights afterward.
Most people fully recover from this procedure within one to three months. It’s
important to follow any discharge and care instructions that you receive after
surgery. Your doctor will probably schedule a few follow-up appointments with you.
Be sure to keep those appointments and talk to your doctor about any
complications you might experience after your surgery.