Objectives To: (i) describe the sociodemographic characteristics of women undergoing surgery for stress incontinence in the UK and the ways in which they differ from women of a similar age in the general population; (ii) the severity and impact of their symptoms and their expectations of surgery and; (iii) their general state of health.
Patients and methods A prospective cohort study was carried out on 442 women undergoing surgery for stress incontinence in 18 hospitals in the North Thames region between January 1993 and June 1994. Sociodemographic factors, stress incontinence severity, symptom impact scores, and general health status were measured.
Results Women undergoing surgery for stress incontinence were similar to their peers in the general population apart from being more likely to have smoked (61.4 against 51.1%), to have subsequently given up (39.5 and 25.3%) and to be of higher parity (≥4; 19.7 and 12.0%). Most women (81.6%) reported moderate to very severe stress incontinence. The impact of symptoms was correlated positively with severity (P<0.001) after accounting for its positive correlation with mental health status (P<0.005), socioeconomic status (P<0.05) and its negative correlation with age (P<0.02). Many women also suffered from other urinary symptoms including urgency (76%) and frequency (42.3%). Apart from their urinary problems, women were in good health (77% reported no or only mild coexistent conditions). However, a very high proportion (34.2%) had previously undergone a hysterectomy.
Conclusions These results suggest that women undergoing stress incontinence surgery are remarkably similar to their peers, apart from their primary condition. The effect that stress incontinence has on women's lives depends not only on the severity of the problem but also on other factors. The high rate of previous hysterectomy warrants further study.