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European UrologyVolume 57, issue 6, pages e53-e68, June 2010
Female Urology - Incontinence
Mechanisms of Pelvic Floor Muscle Function and the Effect on the Urethra during a Cough
Accepted 9 June 2009, Published online 19 June 2009, pages 1101 - 1110
Current measurement tools have difficulty identifying the automatic physiologic processes maintaining continence, and many questions still remain about pelvic floor muscle (PFM) function during automatic events.
To perform a feasibility study to characterise the displacement, velocity, and acceleration of the PFM and the urethra during a cough.
Design, setting, and participants
A volunteer convenience sample of 23 continent women and 9 women with stress urinary incontinence (SUI) from the general community of San Francisco Bay Area was studied.
Methods included perineal ultrasound imaging, motion tracking of the urogenital structures, and digital vaginal examination. Statistical analysis used one-tailed unpaired student t tests, and Welch's correction was applied when variances were unequal.
Results and limitations
The cough reflex activated the PFM of continent women to compress the urogenital structures towards the pubic symphysis, which was absent in women with SUI. The maximum accelerations that acted on the PFM during a cough were generally more similar than the velocities and displacements. The urethras of women with SUI were exposed to uncontrolled transverse acceleration and were displaced more than twice as far (p = 0.0002), with almost twice the velocity (p = 0.0015) of the urethras of continent women. Caution regarding the generalisability of this study is warranted due to the small number of women in the SUI group and the significant difference in parity between groups.
During a cough, normal PFM function produces timely compression of the pelvic floor and additional external support to the urethra, reducing displacement, velocity, and acceleration. In women with SUI, who have weaker urethral attachments, this shortening contraction does not occur; consequently, the urethras of women with SUI move further and faster for a longer duration.
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