TVT sling surgery is one of the procedures used to treat urinary incontinence.
It’s most commonly performed in women experiencing stress incontinence (which means you leak urine when things like coughing, sneezing, running or lifting put pressure on the bladder) and conservative treatments, such as pelvic floor exercises, have not provided adequate relief.
There are various forms of sling surgery which, generally speaking, means a ‘sling’ is created and placed below the urethra (the tube that carries urine from the bladder out of the body). This sling helps support the neck of the bladder and the urethra, acting as a back-up for the pelvic floor muscles.
TVT stands for ‘tension-free vaginal tape’ and is one of the commonly performed forms of minimally-invasive sling surgery. The procedure involves a small incision being made at the top of the vagina, along with two tiny incisions above the pubic bone. A needle will then be used to help insert the tape and position it into place beneath the urethra. The incisions will then be closed either with surgical glue or dissolvable stitches. The surgery is carried out under anaesthetic, and afterwards you will have a catheter to urinate from, to ease pressure on your bladder and urethra. This is usually removed after 24 hours or so, although if it’s needed for a little longer, a nurse will show you how to insert and remove it before you go home.
Most people will be able to leave hospital later the same day, or the following morning. Some soreness and discomfort is common afterwards, but this should ease after a few days or weeks. Painkillers and rest will help, although it’s important to keep mobile too, with gentle walks. However, you’ll need to avoid sex, strenuous exercise and lifting heavy objects until you are fully recovered – your consultant will be able to advise on this.
As with all surgical procedures, TVT sling surgery is not risk-free and isn’t 100% effective. Although risks are rare, it’s important to be fully informed and your consultant will discuss these with you during your consultation beforehand. While the procedure doesn’t work for everybody, most people experience significant long-term improvements.