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Treatment of urge incontinence in postmenopausal women

Introduction and objective:

Urinary incontinence and other urinary symptoms tend to be frequent at menopause because of hormonal modifications and aging. Urinary symptoms are associated with the genitourinary syndrome of menopause which is characterized by physical changes of the vulva, vagina and lower urinary tract. The treatment strategies for postmenopausal urinary incontinence are various and may include estrogens, anticholinergics, and pelvic floor muscle training. A comparison of these treatments is difficult due to the heterogeneity of adopted protocols. We systematically reviewed the evidence from randomized controlled trials (RCTs) focusing on treatment of postmenopausal women with urge incontinence.


We conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis, according to PRISMA guidelines, by searching PubMed and EMBASE databases for randomized controlled trials (RCTs) reporting results of treatments for postmenopausal urinary urge incontinence. Odds ratios for improvement of urinary incontinence were calculated using random effect Mantel-Haenszel statistics.


Out of 248 records retrieved, 35 eligible RCTs were assessed for risk of bias and included in the meta-analysis. Compared with placebo, systemic estrogens were associated with decreased odds of improving urinary incontinence in postmenopausal women (OR=0.74, 95% CI: 0.61-0.91, 7 series, 17132 participants, Z=2.89, p=0.004, I2=72%). In most studies, no significant improvement in urinary symptoms was observed in patients treated with local estrogens, although they showed to be helpful in improving vaginal symptoms. Vitamin D, phytoestrogens and estrogen modulators were not effective in improving symptoms of incontinence and other symptoms of genitourinary menopause syndrome or yielded contradictory results. A randomized controlled trial demonstrated that oxybutynin was significantly better than placebo at improving postmenopausal urgency and urge incontinence. The combination of anticholinergics with local estrogens has not been shown to be more effective than anticholinergics alone in improving urinary incontinence symptoms in postmenopausal women. Physical therapy showed an overall positive outcome on postmenopausal urinary incontinence symptoms, although such evidence should be further validated in the frame of quality RCTs.


The evidence for effective treatment of postmenopausal urinary incontinence is still lacking. Welldesigned large studies having subjective and objective improvement primary endpoints in postmenopausal urinary incontinence are needed. At present, a combination of different treatments tailored to the characteristics of the individual patient can be suggested.

Tags: AUA24