Open retropubic colposuspension for urinary incontinence in women: A short version cochrane review


  • Conflicts of interest: none.

  • This paper is based on a Cochrane review published in The Cochrane Library 2009, Issue 2 (see for information). Cochrane Reviews are regularly updated as new evidence emerges and in response to feedback, and The Cochrane Library should be consulted for the most recent version of the review. If you wish to comment on this or other Cochrane Reviews please use the Cochrane Library Feedback System.



Urinary incontinence is a common and potentially debilitating problem. Open retropubic colposuspension is a surgical treatment which involves lifting the tissues near the bladder neck and proximal urethra in the area behind the anterior pubic bones to correct deficient urethral closure.


To assess the effects of open retropubic colposuspension for the treatment of urinary incontinence.

Search Strategy

We searched the Cochrane Incontinence Group Specialized Register (searched June 30, 2008) and reference lists of relevant articles. We contacted investigators to locate extra studies.

Selection Criteria

Randomized or quasi-randomized controlled trials in women with symptoms or urodynamic diagnoses of stress or mixed urinary incontinence that included open retropubic colposuspension surgery in at least one trial group.

Data Collection and Analysis

Studies were evaluated for methodological quality/susceptibility to bias and appropriateness for inclusion and data extracted by two of the reviewers. Trial data were analyzed by intervention. Where appropriate, a summary statistic was calculated.

Main Results

This review included 46 trials involving a total of 4,738 women. Overall cure rates were 68.9–88.0% for open retropubic colposuspension. Two small studies suggest lower failure rates after open retropubic colposuspension compared with conservative treatment. Similarly, one trial suggests lower failure rates after open retropubic colposuspension compared to anticholinergic treatment. Evidence from six trials showed a lower failure rate for subjective cure after open retropubic colposuspension than after anterior colporrhaphy. Such benefit was maintained over time (RR of failure 0.51; 95% CI 0.34–0.76 before the first year, RR 0.43; 95% CI 0.32–0.57 at 1–5 years, RR 0.49; 95% CI 0.32–0.75 in periods beyond 5 years). In comparison with needle suspensions there was a lower failure rate after colposuspension in the first year after surgery (RR 0.66; 95% CI 0.42–1.03), after the first year (RR 0.48; 95% CI 0.33–0.71), and beyond 5 years (RR 0.32; 95% CI 15–0.71). Evidence from 12 trials in comparison with suburethral slings found no significant difference in failure rates in all time periods assessed. Patient-reported failure rates in short, medium and long-term follow-up showed no significant difference between open and laparoscopic retropubic colposuspension, but with wide confidence intervals. In two trials failure was less common after Burch (RR 0.38 95% CI 0.18–0.76) than after the Marshall-Marchetti-Krantz procedure at 1–5-year follow-up. There were few data at any other follow-up time. In general, the evidence available does not show a higher morbidity or complication rate with open retropubic colposuspension, compared to the other open surgical techniques, although pelvic organ prolapse is more common than after anterior colporrhaphy and sling procedures.

Authors' Conclusions

The evidence available indicates that open retropubic colposuspension is an effective treatment modality for stress urinary incontinence especially in the long term. Within the first year of treatment, the overall continence rate is approximately 85–90%. After 5 years, approximately 70% of patients can expect to be dry. Newer minimal access procedures such as tension free vaginal tape look promising in comparison with open colposuspension but their long-term performance is not known and closer monitoring of their adverse event profile must be carried out. Laparoscopic colposuspension should allow speedier recovery but its relative safety and effectiveness is not known yet. Neurourol. Urodyn. 28:472–480, 2009. © 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.