Aim. This paper reports a comparison of four Cochrane systematic reviews on bladder training and voiding programmes for the management of urinary incontinence using metastudy descriptive techniques. It presents a synopsis of findings on theory and methods for interventions.
Background. From the mid-1970s bladder training, prompted voiding, habit retraining and timed voiding have been developed and form the basis of nursing practice for the management of urinary incontinence in adults in institutional and community settings.
Methods. A synopsis of four Cochrane systematic reviews was undertaken using metastudy techniques developed for qualitative research and has provided a discursive comparison and contrast of the selection and appraisal of primary research, meta-theory and meta-method.
Findings. All programmes share a therapeutic focus on voiding and the degree and active participation of the client and caregiver. Bladder training focuses on the restoration of continence, while prompted voiding, habit retraining and timed voiding focus on the avoidance of incontinence. Bladder training and prompted voiding share the two characteristics of cognitive behavioural modification and active client participation. Habit retraining and timed voiding pre-empt episodes and avoid incontinence using operant conditioning rather than modifying behaviour. Variability of methods and operational terminology makes comparison between studies difficult. Use of cognitive behavioural approaches and operant conditioning need to be better understood in relation to future theory, interventions and study design. Bladder training is aimed at people who are cognitively and physically able, while the other voiding programmes are mainly used with for people with cognitive and physical impairments reliant on caregivers.
Conclusion. The theoretical approaches underpinning bladder training and voiding programmes, their components and suitability for patients need to be re-considered when designing future studies. There is a need for long-term follow-up in future studies. Future trials should adhere to recognized standards of good practice and incorporate outcomes from existing systematic reviews to enable future meta-analysis to be undertaken. Metastudy techniques for the synthesis of qualitative research provide useful methods for the descriptive synopsis of quantitative systematic reviews.