New women's treatment at St. Francis

For the Mirror

A new treatment for female patients with stress incontinence has been introduced at St. Francis Hospital in Federal Way, the first and only hospital in Washington to make the innovative procedure available.

Called the SURx procedure, after the California company that developed the technique, it is outpatient surgery for women who experience occasional or minor episodes of sudden, uncontrolled urine loss due to stretched or lax tissue in their pelvis area, a hospital official said.

The new treatment uses low-power radio frequency thermal energy (controlled heat) to increase the stability of the pelvic floor muscles where continence is controlled. When heated, the lax tissue immediately shrinks and stiffens. During the normal healing process, control of urine flow is restored.

“Stress incontinence runs the gamut from pretty mild to very severe,” said Barbara Levy, a Federal Way gynecologist and one of the first physicians on the West Coast to perform the surgery now available at St. Francis.

Exercises and surgery have been available for women with mild and severe problems. The new procedure “helps the women in the middle,” she said.

As many as four of every 10 U.S. females (6.5 million total), from teenagers to senior citizens, have some degree of stress incontinence, a condition caused by the bladder dropping too low in the pelvis. When the bladder is too low, pressure or stress on the abdomen caused by sneezing, coughing, laughing or lifting can cause an involuntary release of urine. Stress incontinence can be worsened by the loss of hormones that occurs at menopause, by smoking and by being overweight, according to health officials.

The SURx procedure, also called radio frequency bladder neck suspension, is performed as a same-day surgery at St. Francis. Patients typically go home within a few hours without needing a catheter.

Healing takes four to eight weeks, and the success of the procedure depends on the patient’s acceptance of post-surgery restrictions. These include avoiding strenuous physical activity and sexual intercourse during the recovery period.

SURx eliminates the need for surgical staples, bone screws, implants or slings, Levy said.

Sue Brown, director of perioperative services for Franciscan Health System, which includes St. Francis Hospital, said SURx gives women an alternative to more complex procedures “often done later in life.”

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