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Open Access Research article

Quantifying the natural history of post-radical prostatectomy incontinence using objective pad test data

Anna R Smither1, Michael L Guralnick2*, Nancy B Davis3 and William A See2

Author Affiliations

1 Currently at Louisiana Urology, LLC, Baton Rouge, LA, USA

2 Department of Urology, Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, WI, USA

3 Division of Neoplastic Diseases & Related Disorders, Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, WI, USA

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BMC Urology 2007, 7:2  doi:10.1186/1471-2490-7-2

Published: 5 February 2007



Urinary incontinence (UI) following radical prostatectomy is a well-recognized risk of the surgery. In most patients post-operative UI improves over time. To date, there is limited objective, quantitative data on the natural history of the resolution of post-prostatectomy UI. The purpose of this study was to define the natural history of post radical prostatectomy incontinence using an objective quantitative tool, the 1-hour standard pad test.


203 consecutive patients underwent radical prostatectomy by a single surgeon between 03/98 & 08/03. A standardized 1-hour pad test was administered at subsequent postoperative clinic visits. The gram weight of urine loss was recorded and subdivided into four groups defined according to the grams of urine loss: minimal (<1 g), mild (>1, <10 g), moderate (10–50 g) and severe (>50 g). Patients were evaluated: at 2 weeks (catheter removal), 6 weeks, 18 weeks, 30 weeks, 42 weeks and 54 weeks. The data set was analyzed for average urine loss as well as grams of urine loss at each time point, the percentage of patients and the distribution of patients in each category.


Mean follow up was 118 weeks. The majority of patients experienced incontinence immediately after catheter removal at 2 weeks that gradually improved with time. While continued improvement was noted to 1 year, most patients who achieved continence did so by 18 weeks post-op.


While the majority of patients experience mild to severe UI immediately following catheter removal, there is a rapid decrease in leaked weight during the first 18 weeks following RRP. Patients continue to improve out to 1 year with greater than 90% having minimal leakage by International Continence Society criteria.