What is Artificial Urinary Sphincter Surgery?

If your urinary sphincter has weakened, causing your bladder to leak urine when you laugh, cough, or sneeze, you may need to have an artificial sphincter surgically inserted. Urinary sphincters are muscles around the opening of the bladder that hold urine in. An artificial urinary sphincter performs the same functions as these muscles with its three components:

  • The cuff, which is placed around the tube where urine flows out of the body (called the urethra).
  • The balloon, which is implanted under the muscles in the abdomen.
  • The pump, which is inserted in the scrotum (men) or under the skin on the lower abdomen (women).
The cuff is filled with fluid that helps keep the urethra closed. Squeezing the pump moves the fluid from the cuff to the balloon, loosening the cuff and opening the urethra for urine to flow out. After 90 seconds, the balloon automatically transfers the fluid back to the cuff, closing the urethra so that urine cannot leak out.

Surgery to place an artificial sphincter requires two incisions -- one on the abdomen, and the other in the area between the anus and scrotum (men) or in the labia (women). A hospital stay of one to three days is necessary after this operation, and it takes about six weeks for a full recovery.