Urological Community

A Patient’s Story: Overcoming Incontinence After Prostate Surgery

Sarah McIlvaine
Author | Shield HealthCare
05/24/16  11:04 AM PST
incontinence after prostate surgery

This article from the Harvard Prostate Knowledge website tells a very common story: prostate cancer, prostate surgery, leading to unanticipated levels of lasting incontinence. If you are experiencing incontinence after prostate surgery, this is a very comprehensive interview of a man who tried all the options before finding a solution that worked for him.  For the full story, click the link that follows.


Christopher Miller* is a real estate agent who is married and has two sons. About five years ago, at age 56, Mr. Miller was diagnosed with prostate cancer. After a great deal of research and consultations with five doctors, Mr. Miller decided to have a radical prostatectomy. [*Editor’s note: The name of this patient and certain biographical details have been changed to preserve his privacy. All medical details are as he reported them.]

Although he considers the operation a success, in that it has apparently eradicated the cancer, Mr. Miller struggled for almost two years to overcome persistent urinary incontinence. For much of that time, he felt ill-served by the medical community. The story of how he eventually overcame this problem may be helpful to other men in the same situation.

“What sort of problems were you experiencing?”

“I had no problem at night, and I think for most people that’s the case. But when I got up, I was going through anywhere from four to five pads a day. I used a high-absorbency pad that tied around my hips on both sides, and I’d change it throughout the day. I tried doing Kegel exercises, to control the flow, but nothing worked. I was in trouble. I’m an active person. It was embarrassing, and it was the last thing I wanted to deal with. “

Kegel exercises

The strength and proper action of your pelvic floor muscles are important in maintaining continence. Here’s how to do basic pelvic muscle exercises, named for Arnold Kegel, the physician who first developed them:

  1. Pretend you are trying to avoid passing gas. You will feel a contraction more in the back than the front, like you are pulling the anal area in.
  2. Practice both short contractions and releases and longer ones (gradually increasing the strength of the contraction and holding it at your maximum for up to 10 seconds).
  3. Repeat multiple times, several times a day.

“Was impotence an issue?”

“Forget about sex! That was the last thing on my mind during this period. I knew I had to deal with the incontinence issue first.”

“So what did you do?”

“After about a year of waiting for this to get better, I consulted with another surgeon. He recommended a sling procedure. I decided I would try this to see if it would make a difference. That was my second mistake. It was a very difficult operation, more difficult than the radical prostatectomy. [For an explanation of the surgical options, see Table 2.]

Did the second operation alleviate your incontinence?

No, everything was basically the same. That was a disappointment. After I told a friend about all my mishaps, he suggested I ask about having an artificial sphincter inserted. He’d heard it was very successful. I did consult one surgeon about it, but he hadn’t done many of these operations.”

“So I was at a dinner, about a year and a half after I first developed incontinence, and I was talking to a woman whose husband was a prostate surgeon who had passed away. And I told her about my dilemma. She gave me the name and number of one of her husband’s colleagues, and told me to use her name when I called him. So I did.”

“When I met with him, he explained the artificial sphincter procedure to me and my wife. I was immediately comfortable with him. He performed the operation. And I must say it has changed my whole life for the better. I still wear a very tiny pad, just in case there’s a leak when I bend a certain way, or lift something, just for protection more than anything else. And I’m very happy with it.”


Men: Don’t Let Incontinence Slow You Down


Getting Started With Male External Catheters


Source: A patient’s story: Overcoming incontinence – Harvard Prostate Knowledge – Harvard Health Publications



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