Inflatable Artificial Sphincter

Sphincters are muscles that allow your body to hold in urine. An inflatable artificial (human-made) sphincter is a medical device that keeps urine from leaking when your urinary sphincter no longer works well. When you need to urinate, the cuff of the artificial sphincter can be relaxed so urine can flow out.

You will have either general anesthesia or spinal anesthesia before the procedure. With general anesthesia, you will be asleep and will not feel pain. With spinal anesthesia, you will be awake but numb from the waist down, and you will not feel pain.

 

An artificial sphincter has three parts:

 

  • A cuff, which fits around your urethra, the tube that carries urine from your bladder to the outside of your body. When it is inflated (full), the cuff closes off your urethra to stop urine flow or leakage.

  • A balloon, which is placed under your belly muscles. It holds the same liquid as the cuff.

  • A pump, which is placed in a man’s scrotum, or underneath the skin in a woman’s lower belly or leg. The pump inflates the cuff.

A surgical cut will be made in one of these areas so that the cuff can be put in place:

 

  • Scrotum (men)

  • Labia (women)

  • Lower belly (men and women)

Once the artificial sphincter is in place, you will use the pump to empty (deflate) the cuff. Squeezing the pump moves fluid from the cuff to the balloon. When the cuff is empty, your urethra opens so that you can urinate. The cuff will re-inflate on its own in 90 seconds.

 

Why the Procedure is Performed

Artificial sphincter surgery is done to treat stress incontinence, a leakage of urine that occurs with activities such as walking, lifting, exercising, or even coughing or sneezing.

The procedure is recommended for men who have urine leakage after prostate surgery.

Women who have urine leakage usually try other treatment options before having an artificial sphincter placed.

 

Most of the time, your doctor will recommend drugs and bladder retraining before surgery.