Incontinence in the frail elderly: Report from the 4th international consultation on incontinence


  • Catherine E. DuBeau,

    Corresponding author
    1. Division of Geriatric Medicine, University of Massachusetts, Worcester, Massachusetts
    • University of Massachusetts School of Medicine, 377 Plantation Street, Biotech 4, Suite 315, Worcester, MA 01605-2300.
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    • Professor of Medicine, Clinical Chief of Geriatrics.

  • George A. Kuchel,

    1. University of Connecticut Health Center, Farmington, Connecticut
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    • Professor of Medicine, Citicorp Chair in Geriatrics and Gerontology, Director of the UConn Center on Aging, Chief of the Division of Geriatric Medicine.

  • Theodore Johnson II,

    1. Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, Georgia
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    • Professor of Medicine, Chief of the Division of Geriatric Medicine and Gerontology.

  • Mary H. Palmer,

    1. University of North Carolina School of Nursing, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina
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    • Helen W. and Thomas L. Umphlet Distinguished Professor in Aging.

  • Adrian Wagg

    1. Department of Geriatric Medicine, University College Hospital, London, UK
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  • Christopher Chapple led the review process.



To summarize current knowledge on the etiology, assessment, and management of urinary incontinence (UI) in frail older persons. “Frail” here indicates a person with a clinical phenotype combining impaired physical activity, mobility, muscle strength, cognition, nutrition, and endurance, associated with being homebound or in care institutions and a high risk of intercurrent disease, disability, and death.


Revision of 3rd ICI report using systematic review covering years 2004–2008.


We focus on the etiologic, management, and treatment implications of the key concept that UI in frail persons constitutes a syndromic model with multiple interacting risk factors, including age-related physiologic changes, comorbidity, and the common pathways between them. We present new findings with evidence summaries based on all previous data, and an evidence-based algorithm for evaluation and management of UI in frail elderly. We also present new evidence and summarize the data on etiology and management of nocturia and urinary retention in frail elderly.


Despite the overwhelming burden of UI among this population, there remains a continuing paucity of new clinical trials in frail elderly, limiting evidence for the effectiveness of the full range of UI therapy. Future research is needed on current UI treatments (especially models of care delivery, and pharmacologic and surgical therapies), novel management approaches, and the etiologic mechanisms and pathways of the syndromic model. Neurourol. Urodynam. 29: 165–178, 2010. © 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.