Stress Urinary Incontinence: Having Retropubic Suspension Surgery

To help treat stress urinary incontinence (SUI), your surgeon may perform a procedure called retropubic suspension. It is done by making an incision in the lower part of your belly (abdomen). During this surgery, the surgeon puts stitches through the tissue next to the vagina to help support the urethra and bladder firmly in place. This helps keep the urethra closed to prevent urine leakage. Your surgery will take about 2 hour(s). You will be asked to do some things at home to prepare for surgery. Below are guidelines to help you get ready. If you have any questions, call your nurse or doctor.

Front view of female abdomen showing low abdominal incision site.

Side view cross section of female pelvis showing retropubic suspension.

An incision is made in your lower belly.


How should I prepare for surgery?

The weeks before surgery

  • Have any tests that your doctor orders.

  • Tell your doctor about aspirin and other medicines, vitamins, or herbs you take. Ask if you should stop taking them before surgery.

  • Stop smoking to help reduce your risks during surgery.

  • If you have been given any prescriptions to fill, do this before surgery.

The night before surgery

  • You may be asked to give yourself an enema. This cleans out your bowels for surgery. You’ll be told how to do it.

  • Follow any directions you are given for taking medicines and for not eating or drinking before surgery.

The day of surgery

Arrive at the hospital a few hours before surgery as directed. Have someone drive you there who can also stay during the surgery, and drive you home. At the hospital, your temperature and blood pressure will be taken. In some cases, tests may be done. Then, you will receive one or more IV (intravenous) lines. These lines give you fluids and medicines before, during, and after surgery. Some of your pubic hair may be removed. Tight stockings (compression stockings) may be put on your legs to help prevent blood clots.

About anesthesia

To keep you pain-free during surgery, you’ll receive anesthesia. General anesthesia allows you to sleep. Regional anesthesia numbs the lower part of your body. Local anesthesia numbs the area that will be operated on. Before surgery, you’ll meet with the anesthesiologist or nurse anesthetist. He or she can tell you what kind of anesthesia you will receive and answer questions you may have.

What happens during the surgery?

  • An incision about 4 inches long is made in the lower part of the abdomen, near the pubic hairline.

  • Through the incision, the surgeon places sutures into the tissue next to the vagina. Or sutures may be placed into the outside walls of the vagina behind the urethra. The ends of the sutures are tied to strong tissues or bone nearby.

  • The incision is closed with sutures, staples, or strips of tape (Steri-Strips).

What are the risks and complications?

The risks and complications of this procedure may include:

  • Infection

  • Bleeding

  • Risks of anesthesia

  • Blood clots

  • Damage to nerves, muscles, bladder, or nearby pelvic structures

  • Trouble urinating

  • Urinary urgency