Unveiling the Mechanism: How Artificial Urinary Sphincters Work

Urinary Incontinence

Urinary incontinence, or the involuntary leakage of urine, is a condition that can significantly impact a person's quality of life. It is a common issue, particularly among men who have undergone prostate cancer treatment. When other treatments have not been successful, an artificial urinary sphincter (AUS) can provide an effective solution. This blog will delve into how this innovative device works.

What is an Artificial Urinary Sphincter?

An artificial urinary sphincter is a surgically implanted device that helps control urinary incontinence by mimicking the function of a healthy urinary sphincter. It is commonly used in men who have experienced sphincter damage or weakening due to prostate surgery.

The AUS consists of three main components: a cuff, a pump, and a balloon reservoir.

  1. Cuff: A silicone cuff is placed around the urethra, the tube that carries urine out of the bladder. When filled with fluid, the cuff compresses the urethra, preventing urine leakage.
  2. Pump: The pump is a small device placed in the scrotum. It is manually operated to control the flow of fluid in and out of the cuff
  3. Balloon Reservoir: This component is implanted in the lower abdomen and is filled with fluid that can be transferred to the cuff.

How Does an Artificial Urinary Sphincter Work?

The AUS functions by cyclically compressing and releasing the urethra. When the device is in its default state, the fluid-filled cuff compresses the urethra, preventing urine from leaking out. This is referred to as the 'closed' position. When the individual needs to urinate, he manually activates the pump in the scrotum. This causes the fluid to move from the cuff to the balloon reservoir, releasing the compression on the urethra and allowing urine to flow out. This is the 'open' position. After urination, the pump automatically refills the cuff with fluid from the reservoir over a couple of minutes, closing the urethra again and preventing further leakage.

An artificial urinary sphincter offers an effective solution for men suffering from severe urinary incontinence. Understanding how this device works can provide reassurance and help individuals make informed decisions about their treatment. Open discussions with healthcare providers are crucial to understanding the potential benefits and risks involved. Remember, the goal is to restore continence and improve the quality of life, and an artificial urinary sphincter can be a significant step towards achieving that goal.

If you’d like to learn more about the treatments available for urinary incontinence, schedule a consultation with Dr. Chung at one of two locations in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The problem can be painful, lead to worsening quality of life, and you may feel embarrassed by it. Dr. Chung can help by explaining what’s going on and suggesting a way to fix it.

Author
Paul H. Chung, MD Paul H. Chung, MD is Assistant Professor of Urology and Director of Reconstructive Urology at the Sidney Kimmel Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, PA

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