Making a decision about surgery for female urinary incontinence: a qualitative study of women’s views

Rebecca Lynch*, Philip Toozs-Hobson, Jonathan Duckett, Douglas Tincello, Simon Cohn

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Introduction and hypothesis: This qualitative interview study explores aspects women with urinary incontinence(UI) reflect upon when considering whether or not to have surgery. Conducted prior to the recent mesh pause in the UK, the article provides insights for current and future approaches to shared decision-making. Methods: Qualitative in-depth interviews of 28 patients referred to secondary care for stress and mixed UI who were considering UI surgery. Participants were recruited from four urogynaecology clinics in the Midlands and South England, UK. Interviews were conducted in clinics, in patient homes, and by telephone. Data analysis was based on the constant comparative method. Results: Participants’ accounts comprised three key concerns: their experience of symptoms, the extent to which these impacted a variety of social roles and demands, and overcoming embarrassment. Accounts drew on individual circumstances, values, and concerns rather than objective or measurable criteria. In combination, these dimensions constituted a personal assessment of the severity of their UI and hence framed the extent to which women prioritized addressing their condition. Conclusions: Acknowledging women’s personal accounts of UI shifts the concept of ‘severity’ beyond a medical definition to include what is important to patients themselves. Decision-making around elective surgery must endeavour to link medical information with women’s own experiences and personal criteria, which often change in priority over time. We propose that this research provides insight into how the controversy around the use of mesh in the UK emerged. This study also suggests ways in which facilitating shared decision-making should be conducted in future.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)127-133
Number of pages7
JournalInternational Urogynecology Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2021


  • Decision-making
  • Surgery
  • Surgical mesh
  • Urinary incontinence
  • women’s views


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