September 17, 2001

Grant Aims to Find Best Treatments for Urinary Incontinence

UCSD Healthcare’s Women’s Continence Center was awarded a five-year $1 million grant from the National Institutes of Health in order to develop and collaborate with a Urinary Incontinence Treatment Network nationally, as well as locally with the Balboa Naval Hospital and Kaiser Permanente. UCSD is one of nine centers nationwide to receive such a grant.

“This grant is part of the NIH’s effort to create a national standard for the study of urinary incontinence and the development of more effective treatments,” according to Michael Albo, M.D., a UCSD School of Medicine assistant professor of urology who is co-principal investigator on the grant with Charles Nager, M.D., UCSD School of Medicine professor of reproductive medicine. Drs. Albo and Nager are also co-directors of UCSD’s Women’s Continence Center, and both have been fellowship-trained to treat female incontinence and pelvic prolapse.

Incontinence – the involuntary loss of urine – is one of the most prevalent, yet least discussed problems among American women today. More than 11 million women in the United States have urinary incontinence and many cases go unreported and untreated despite the fact that incontinence is curable.

Drs. Albo and Nager will team up with physicians from Kaiser Permanente and Balboa Naval Hospital to be a part of this national urinary incontinence treatment network. The other centers include University of Pittsburgh, University of Texas, Southwestern, University of Maryland, University of Utah, University of Texas, San Antonio, Royal Beaumont Hospital in Detroit, Loyola University in Chicago, and the University of Alabama.

Locally and nationally, these consortiums will allow medical centers to build a database of incontinence patients to determine the most effective means of evaluating and treating patients with urinary incontinence, and to establish national standards.

There are several types of incontinence, which are: stress incontinence, urge incontinence and overflow incontinence. For all types of the disorder, there are various behavior modifications as well as minimally invasive surgical therapies. Assessing which therapies work best for which type of incontinence is a main objective of the Urinary Incontinence Treatment Network.

The first randomized prospective study this network will perform is assessing the treatment results of two gold-surgical therapies for stress urinary incontinence - the Burch colpususpension and the Pubo-vaginal Sling.

“Research in this area has been hindered by lack of uniformity,” Dr. Albo said. “Individual physicians have reported their own results which often could not be compared to other physicians’ results due to inconsistent definitions, methods of evaluations and lack of standardization.

“This grant will create a network of physicians who are all performing evaluations, procedures and follow-up in the same manner,” Dr. Albo added. “It will allow us to compare patients with similar types of incontinence all across the country and figure out what works best.”

Additionally, the physicians hope this grant will aid them in bringing this treatable disorder to the forefront of medical and public discussion. They say too many women become socially isolated because of urinary incontinence due to embarrassment and not knowing that there are treatments available.

Drs. Albo and Nager have been working to increase the awareness and treatment of urinary incontinence. In 1999, the physicians created the UCSD Women’s Continence Center, a collaborative program between the UCSD Division of Urology and Department of Reproductive Medicine. The UCSD Women’s Continence Center is a comprehensive, multidisciplinary center of excellence for the diagnosis and management of urinary incontinence in women.

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Media Contact: Kate Deely Smith

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