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Can men have successful surgery for incontinence?

Portrait of Gregory Lowe, MD

Gregory Lowe, MD

OhioHealth Urology Physicians

Surgical treatment of stress urinary incontinence (SUI) is useful when men have incontinence to such a degree that they are bothered by the leakage. This may be different for each man, as levels of activity and the degree of inconvenience felt with the use of pads or adult diapers varies. Determining the amount of incontinence (mild, moderate, severe), can be based on number of pads used per day and how soaked the pads are when changed. 

A physician specializing in bladder health will ask patients questions about pad use during a patient’s visit to the office. When a man is more active (playing golf, exercising, lifting, or working), it tends to lead to more episodes of stress urinary incontinence. Men who find themselves limiting their activity due to fear of getting wet pants or who are troubled with their pad use should speak with a surgeon to discuss surgical treatment for stress urinary incontinence. There are options! In fact, there are several devices that can be placed during a straightforward operation to help men dealing with incontinence. The male sling and artificial urinary sphincter are well established treatments to provide men with long-term urinary control.

Surgical procedures to treat male incontinence: artificial sphincter, male sling and bulking agents

There are multiple options for stress urinary incontinence surgery. Men should be very clear and open with their doctor about when and how their incontinence occurs.  By helping their physician understand the amount and bother of the incontinence, men can help ensure that they receive the treatment most likely to provide patient satisfaction.


Men should be very clear and open with their doctor about when and how their incontinence occurs.


One incontinence treatment option procedure is injection of bulking agents. Bulking agents can be injected into the urethra, the tube that carries urine from the bladder out of the body. This helps provide more resistance and minimizes leakage, but this is not often a successful incontinence treatment for men with severe SUI. Most men are continent for at least 5 years after receiving an AUS or male sling.1,2

The best patients for a male sling have mild to moderate SUI.1,3 The male sling is a mesh material that is placed through an incision in front of the anus. The male sling re-positions the urethra.4 This leads to more support of the muscle used to hold urine.4 The male sling provides a SUI treatment option for men who leak urine. There are no mechanical parts with the sling.4 Placement of a male sling is also a procedure for men who have climacturia (release of urine at the time of orgasm).5

An artificial urinary sphincter is an incontinence surgical treatment proven to work for patients with all levels of SUI following prostate procedures.6-8  The artificial urinary sphincter is a gold standard, meaning it is a proven treatment.6,8,9 The artificial urinary sphincter is a device that has multiple components. It typically is placed through two incisions. It can treat even severe incontinence. The artificial urinary sphincter has a cuff that surrounds the urethra designed to keep it closed and prevent urine from passing through it. When a man wishes to void, a pump is pressed in the scrotum. This opens the cuff, allowing urine to flow through. The cuff then fills on its own to close the urine channel again, to prevent leakage of urine.

Some men are not good candidates for incontinence surgery

There are a few conditions that will exclude a patient from an incontinence surgery. For the artificial urinary sphincter, this includes anyone who is not be a good candidate for surgery as determined by their physician, anyone who has an irreversibly blocked lower urinary tract, or who has untreatable overactive bladder muscles.

Additionally, there may be other considerations that a physician assesses when deciding if an artificial urinary sphincter is a good choice for a patient. For example, an artificial urinary sphincter requires the patient to be able to squeeze a bulb in the scrotum.10 Patients who do not have good manual dexterity and/or mental acuity may not be able to work the device well enough to make this an appropriate treatment option.4 Also, men taking blood thinners may be required to stop these medications prior to surgery. If these medications can’t be temporarily stopped, this may not be an incontinence treatment option for these patients either.

Why surgical procedures for incontinence are a recommended course of treatment

Stress urinary incontinence is a very bothersome condition for many men. This condition may develop following surgery on the prostate and come on suddenly.11,12 Physical therapy for incontinence is a common initial treatment to address loss of bladder control but may still fail. Surgery for SUI can provide men the control and quality of life they desire. As physicians, we want our patients to stay active and enjoy life. The procedures placing the artificial urinary sphincter and male sling aim to return men to normal continence and confidence.

Most patients are satisfied following the AUS and male sling surgeries for incontinence.13-15 There are many factors that influence patient satisfaction. First of these is determining what is success. Some men are happy to reduce their incontinence by half, while other men wish to be completely dry again. Typically, in my practice, the aim is to return men to one to two pads per day, which is considered socially continent. As a physician that regularly performs incontinence procedures, it is important for me to clarify the patient’s expectation before considering or recommending surgery. Other factors that affect patient satisfaction include prior use of radiation, presence of urge incontinence, ease of use of the device, and the need for further procedures. Prior to surgery, a patient’s physician should be able to provide him with appropriate expectations. Overall, satisfaction is generally high. If men experience a significant improvement in their SUI, it can be beneficial to their quality of life.15

Most patients are satisfied following the AUS and male sling surgeries for incontinence.13-15


Prior to incontinence surgery, patients should learn about the SUI procedures and ask their doctor questions

Men should know that the procedures used to treat SUI have been available for many years, that they can be successful and life altering in a positive way. However, it is also important that a patient realizes that after a procedure, he may not have complete bladder control with no leakage. Through working with my patients, it has been my observation that the male sling and artificial sphincter can be overcome if the bladder is allowed to be filled fully. Put another way, a man may need to continue to plan bathroom breaks and wear a pad for “security” because leaks are still possible or even could be expected if he waits too long to void his bladder.


Men should know that the procedures used to treat SUI have been available for many years, that they can be successful and life altering in a positive way.


Men are often embarrassed to discuss their incontinence, but there are treatments available. Urologists specializing in male continence restoration are accustomed to treating patients who drip or leak upon movement; we are comfortable talking about the details.

Here is a list of questions you may wish to ask your doctor about stress incontinence procedures and devices:

  1. Will I be completely dry? If not, what level of continence can I expect?
  2. Is there an alternative option that is not surgery?
  3. How will radiation therapy affect my outcomes?
  4. Will I need to stay overnight in the hospital?
  5. Will I have a Foley catheter after surgery?
  6. What is the risk of infection?
  7. What happens if an infection occurs?
  8. How long will I have discomfort or pain after surgery?
  9. Do I need to limit my activity after surgery, and for how long?
  10. Will the procedure affect my erections or sexual function?
  11. Does an artificial sphincter or male sling ever fail?
  12. If it does fail or does not work, are there other options?
  13. How many of these procedures do you do a year?

The doctor is in

Incontinence treatment options for men with SUI

Explore solutions for Stress Urinary Incontinence (SUI), including lifestyle changes, exercises, and surgical options like the male sling and artificial urinary sphincter (AUS).

Take the bladder leakage quiz

Learn more about the link between your symptoms and SUI.

  1. Mumm JN, Klehr B, Radler S, et al. Five-year results of a prospective multicenter trial: Advance XP for postprostatectomy-incontinence in patients with favorable prognostic factors. Ural Int. 2021 Jan 29:1-7. 
  2. Deruyver Y, Schillebeeckx C, Beels E, De Ridder D, Van der Aa F. Long-term outcomes and patient satisfaction after artificial urinary sphincter implantation. World J Urol. 2022 Feb;40(2):497-503.
  3. Rizvi IG, Ravindra P, Pipe M, et al. The Advance™ male sling: does it stand the test of time? Scand J Ural. 2021 Feb 1 :1-6  
  4. Data on file with Boston Scientific.  
  5. Chung E, Wang J. The Advance Sling and Male Sexual Function: A Prospective Analysis on the Impact of Pelvic Mesh on Erectile and Orgasmic Domains in Sexually Active Men With Postprostatectomy Stress Urinary Incontinence. Sex Med. 2022 Aug:10(4):100529 
  6. Montague DK. Artificial urinary sphincter: long-term results and patient satisfaction. Adv Urol. 2012;2012:835290. 
  7. AMS 800™ Artificial Urinary Sphincter for Male Patients. Boston Scientific. 2019  
  8. James MH, McCammon KA. Artificial urinary sphincter for post-prostatectomy incontinence: a review. Int J Urol. 2014 Jun;21(6):536-43.
  9. Biardeau X, Aharony S; AUS Consensus Group, et al. Artificial Urinary Sphincter: Report of the 201 5 Consensus Conference. Neurourol Urodyn. 2016 Apr;35 Suppl 2:S8-24  
  10. Keles A. Onur R, Aydos M, et al. The role of educational level and cognitive status in men undergoing artificial urinary sphincter implantation. Urology. 2021Jan;147:243-9  
  11. Abrams P, Andersson KE, Birder l, et al. Fourth International Consultation on Incontinence recommendations of the International Scientific Committee: evaluation and treatment of urinary incontinence, pelvic organ prolapse, and fecal incontinence. Neurourol Urodyn. 2010;29(1):213-40. 
  12. Stress Incontinence. Mayo Clinic Website. Accessed June 2024.
  13. Sayedahmed K, Olianas R, Kaftan B, et al. Impact of previous urethroplasty on the outcome after artificial urinary sphincter implantation: a prospective evaluation. World J Ural. 2020 Jan:38(1):183-191 
  14. Del Favero L, Tasso G, Deruyver Y, et al. Long-term Functional Outcomes and Patient Satisfaction After AdVance and AdVance XP Male Sling Surgery. Eur Urol Focus. 2022;8(5):1408-1414.
  15. Constable L, Abrams P, Cooper D, et al. Synthetic sling or artificial urinary sphincter for men with urodynamic stress incontinence after prostate surgery: the MASTER non-inferiority RCT. Health Technol Assess. 2022 Aug;26(36):1-152.

This physician is a Boston Scientific consultant but was not compensated for the creation of this article. Patients are strongly encouraged to talk with their own physician; clinical results can vary.

Caution: U.S. Federal law restricts this device to sale by or on the order of a physician.

AdVanceᵀᴹ XP Male Sling System

The AdVance™ XP Male Sling System is intended for the treatment of male stress urinary incontinence (SUI). Potential risks may include inability to urinate (urinary retention), return to incontinence, infection, erosion, device migration, pelvic organ disfunction, bleeding, and pain. These devices are contraindicated for patients with urinary tract infections, blood coagulation disorders, a compromised immune system or any other condition that would compromise healing, with renal insufficiency, and upper urinary tract relative obstruction. MH-557011-AB

AMS 800ᵀᴹ Artificial Urinary Sphincter

Your doctor is your best source for information on the risks and benefits of the AMS 800ᵀᴹ Artificial Urinary Sphincter. Talk to your doctor for a complete listing of risks, warnings and important safety information.

The AMS 800ᵀᴹ Artificial Urinary Sphincter is intended for use in the treatment of male stress urinary incontinence (intrinsic sphincter deficiency) following prostate surgery.

Men with diabetes, spinal cord injuries or skin infections may have an increased risk of infection. Some AMS 800 devices contain an antibiotic (InhibiZoneᵀᴹ Antibiotic Surface Treatment). The device may not be suited for patients who are allergic to the antibiotics contained within the device (rifampin, minocycline or other tetracyclines) or have systemic lupus.

Potential risks may include: device malfunction/failure leading to additional surgery, wearing away/loss of tissue (device/tissue erosion), inability to urinate (urinary retention), infection, and pain/soreness. MH-545611-AB

IMPORTANT INFORMATION: These materials are intended to describe common clinical considerations and procedural steps for the use of referenced technologies but may not be appropriate for every patient or case. Decisions surrounding patient care depend on the physician’s professional judgment in consideration of all available information for the individual case.

This material is for informational Purposes only and not meant for medical diagnosis. This information does not constitute medical or legal advice, and Boston Scientific makes no representation regarding the medical benefits included in this information. Boston Scientific strongly recommends that you consult with your physician on all matters pertaining to your health.

Boston Scientific (BSC) does not promote or encourage the use of its devices outside their approved labeling. Case studies are not necessarily representative of clinical outcomes in all cases as individual results may vary.

All images are the property of Boston Scientific or provided courtesy of the physicians shown.