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Tension-free Vaginal Tape

More than eight million women in the United States suffer from urinary control problems -- an estimated one in four women between the ages of 30 and 59 leak urine. Stress incontinence is the most common kind of incontinence, occurring with simple activities such as coughing, sneezing or lifting a heavy object. It is not a normal sign of aging, but of something else happening in the body.

Many women who suffer from stress incontinence do not seek medical treatment, assuming the condition cannot be corrected. Instead, they rely on various personal protection items and try to stick close to home to avoid embarrassing accidents.

One solution is a minimally invasive procedure, the Tension-Free Vaginal Tape (TVT) System. The procedure, which can be performed under local anesthesia, takes about 30 minutes to complete. Patients go home the same day and recover quickly.

During the procedure, a mesh-like tape is surgically inserted to support the bladder neck and urethra, the tube through which urine exits the bladder. The tape acts like a sling to restore the normal position of the urethra, which may have slipped because of weakened pelvic floor muscle due to the stress of childbirth, medications or menopause.

The mesh acts as a backboard so the patient will not leak. Two small incisions in the abdomen are made, along with one in the vaginal wall to gain access to the urethra.

To date, more than 20,000 patients worldwide have been treated with the TVT system. Clinical studies have shown an 86 percent cure rate.

Candidates for the surgery are women who have unsuccessfully tried other treatments -- such as medications, bladder training, electrical stimulation to help injured muscles or pelvic muscle strengthening exercises. The procedure is appropriate for overweight women and patients who have previously undergone other incontinence procedures.