Collagen injections 

Treatment for bladder incontinence

Collagen injections may be suggested if your loved one has a very mild form of bladder incontinence.

They may also be used if he is not able to have surgery to correct long-term incontinence, perhaps due to other health problems or his age.

What to expect

Doctors have been injecting substances like collagen  to help manage stress urinary incontinence for more than ten years. 

First, the urologist may order several tests to make sure incontinence isn’t being caused by other problems, such as:

  • Involuntary bladder contractions
  • Constriction of the bladder neck, which can be caused by scar tissue that builds up after surgery

The treatment involves the injection of a small amount of collagen to "bulk up" and strengthen the bladder sphincter. 

It's kind of like when women get injections to “plump up" their faces and remove their wrinkles. 

After treatment

After the treatment, the doctor may ask a man to cough to determine if it has worked (as coughing can cause bladder leakage).

Oral antibiotics will probably also be prescribed to help minimize risk of infection. 

A simple and minimally invasive procedure, men may notice results after the first or second injection.

Collagen injections are not permanent

Over time, the collagen is absorbed into the body. This means that if your loved one has some improvement in urinary control after receiving treatment, his improvement is likely to fade over time.

So be prepared for multiple treatments over time (possible every four to six weeks). 

Clinical studies report mixed results

Some studies have shown that collagen injections have not been as effective as surgical methods to treat incontinence.  Studies have also been mixed in terms of effectiveness. 

One study reported that 70% of men said they were cured or had significant improvement while another study only demonstrated a:

  • 10% cure rate
  • 35% improvement rate

Other studies also suggest that this treatment is generally not as helpful for men who have had:

  • Radiation following surgery to remove the prostate gland
  • Cryosurgery
  • Surgery for bladder neck constriction

Other things to consider

Collagen is a protein found in the skin, bones, and connective tissues and some men may be allergic to it.  As a result, they may want to consider having a skin test to rule out any sensitivity prior to treatment.

Other types of materials that may be used as bulking agents include:

  • Synthetic materials
  • Fat from a person's own body
  • Stem cell injections

Back to coping with incontinence
Medications
Sling procedure
Artificial urinary sphincter

References:

Atiemo HO, Moy L, Vasavada S, Rackley R. Evaluating and managing urinary incontinence after prostatectomy: beyond pads and diapers. Cleveland Clinical Journal of Medicine. 2007;74 (1):57-63.

Rackley R. Bulking agents for incontinence. http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/447068-overview.  Accessed March 17, 2015.

Walsh PC. Guide to Surviving Prostate Cancer. New York, NY: Time Warner Book Group; 2001.

Always consult a medical professional.

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