Conservative interventions for treating urinary incontinence in women: an overview of Cochrane systematic reviews

Alex Todhunter-Brown*, Christine Hazelton, Pauline Campbell, Andrew Elders, Suzanne Hagen, Doreen McClurg

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

Background
Urinary incontinence (UI) is the involuntary loss of urine and can be caused by several different conditions. The common types of UI are stress (SUI), urgency (UUI) and mixed (MUI). A wide range of interventions can be delivered to reduce the symptoms of UI in women. Conservative interventions are generally recommended as the first line of treatment.

Objectives
To summarise Cochrane Reviews that assessed the effects of conservative interventions for treating UI in women.

Methods
We searched the Cochrane Library to January 2021 (CDSR; 2021, Issue 1) and included any Cochrane Review that included studies with women aged 18 years or older with a clinical diagnosis of SUI, UUI or MUI, and investigating a conservative intervention aimed at improving or curing UI. We included reviews that compared a conservative intervention with 'control' (which included placebo, no treatment or usual care), another conservative intervention or another active, but non‐conservative, intervention. A stakeholder group informed the selection and synthesis of evidence.

Two overview authors independently applied the inclusion criteria, extracted data and judged review quality, resolving disagreements through discussion. Primary outcomes of interest were patient‐reported cure or improvement and condition‐specific quality of life. We judged the risk of bias in included reviews using the ROBIS tool. We judged the certainty of evidence within the reviews based on the GRADE approach. Evidence relating to SUI, UUI or all types of UI combined (AUI) were synthesised separately. The AUI group included evidence relating to participants with MUI, as well as from studies that combined women with different diagnoses (i.e. SUI, UUI and MUI) and studies in which the type of UI was unclear.

Main results
We included 29 relevant Cochrane Reviews. Seven focused on physical therapies; five on education, behavioural and lifestyle advice; one on mechanical devices; one on acupuncture and one on yoga. Fourteen focused on non‐conservative interventions but had a comparison with a conservative intervention. No reviews synthesised evidence relating to psychological therapies. There were 112 unique trials (including 8975 women) that had primary outcome data included in at least one analysis.

Stress urinary incontinence (14 reviews)

Conservative intervention versus control: there was moderate or high certainty evidence that pelvic floor muscle training (PFMT), PFMT plus biofeedback and cones were more beneficial than control for curing or improving UI. PFMT and intravaginal devices improved quality of life compared to control.

One conservative intervention versus another conservative intervention: for cure and improvement of UI, there was moderate or high certainty evidence that: continence pessary plus PFMT was more beneficial than continence pessary alone; PFMT plus educational intervention was more beneficial than cones; more‐intensive PFMT was more beneficial than less‐intensive PFMT; and PFMT plus an adherence strategy was more beneficial than PFMT alone. There was no moderate or high certainty evidence for quality of life.

Urgency urinary incontinence (five reviews)

Conservative intervention versus control: there was moderate to high‐certainty evidence demonstrating that PFMT plus feedback, PFMT plus biofeedback, electrical stimulation and bladder training were more beneficial than control for curing or improving UI. Women using electrical stimulation plus PFMT had higher quality of life than women in the control group.

One conservative intervention versus another conservative intervention: for cure or improvement, there was moderate certainty evidence that electrical stimulation was more effective than laseropuncture. There was high or moderate certainty evidence that PFMT resulted in higher quality of life than electrical stimulation and electrical stimulation plus PFMT resulted in better cure or improvement and higher quality of life than PFMT alone.

All types of urinary incontinence (13 reviews)

Conservative intervention versus control: there was moderate to high certainty evidence of better cure or improvement with PFMT, electrical stimulation, weight loss and cones compared to control. There was moderate certainty evidence of improved quality of life with PFMT compared to control.

One conservative intervention versus another conservative intervention: there was moderate or high certainty evidence of better cure or improvement for PFMT with bladder training than bladder training alone. Likewise, PFMT with more individual health professional supervision was more effective than less contact/supervision and more‐intensive PFMT was more beneficial than less‐intensive PFMT. There was moderate certainty evidence that PFMT plus bladder training resulted in higher quality of life than bladder training alone.

Authors' conclusions
There is high certainty that PFMT is more beneficial than control for all types of UI for outcomes of cure or improvement and quality of life. We are moderately certain that, if PFMT is more intense, more frequent, with individual supervision, with/without combined with behavioural interventions with/without an adherence strategy, effectiveness is improved. We are highly certain that, for cure or improvement, cones are more beneficial than control (but not PFMT) for women with SUI, electrical stimulation is beneficial for women with UUI, and weight loss results in more cure and improvement than control for women with AUI.

Most evidence within the included Cochrane Reviews is of low certainty. It is important that future new and updated Cochrane Reviews develop questions that are more clinically useful, avoid multiple overlapping reviews and consult women with UI to further identify outcomes of importance.
Original languageEnglish
JournalCochrane Database of Systematic Reviews
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2 Sep 2022

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