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Glossary of Terms

AAGL: American Association of Gynecologic Laparoscopists, advancing minimally invasive gynecology worldwide.

Abdominal surgery: Surgery performed by direct incision through the skin, muscles, and supportive structures inside the body, allowing the surgeon direct access to the tissues or organs to be repaired, altered or removed. Used for diagnosis and treatment for various pelvic floor disorders.

Anal fistula: In this condition, an opening occurs between the rectum and the vagina. Symptoms may include leakage of gas or stool through the vagina and pain and swelling in the rectum.

Biofeedback therapy: A treatment for incontinence that uses graphs and sounds to show a patient how her pelvic floor muscles are exercising.

Bladder: The muscular sac in the pelvis that stores urine.

Bladder control: The ability to keep urine from leaking out of the bladder.

Bladder suspension: A surgical procedure that positions the bladder and prevents its descent in to the vagina.

Bladder training: An incontinence therapy that involves having a patient practice holding urine for increasing amounts of time.

Chronic incontinence: Regular leakage of urine that occurs for six months or longer.

Constipation: Difficulty in passing stools, or hard stools.

Cystocele: A protrusion or hernia of the bladder into the vagina.

Elasticity: The ability of tissue to return to its original shape after being stretched.

Electrical stimulation: Also known as E-stim, uses electrodes to convey a small electrical current for therapy.

Enterocele: Occurs when the intestine drops into the lower pelvic cavity and protrudes into the vagina, creating a bulge. This is a vaginal hernia.

Estrogen: The female hormone. Has an important role in vaginal, urethral and pelvic muscle strength.

Gastroenterologist: A doctor who specializes in problems of the intestinal system. If you have diarrhea, constipation, or bowel incontinence, you may be referred to a gastroenterologist.

Geriatrician: A doctor who specializes in treating older people. Some geriatricians have advanced training in the treatment and management of incontinence.

Gynecologist: A doctor specializing in the reproductive health of women. Some have special interest in the diagnosis and treatment of urinary incontinence and prolapse including surgery and well-woman care.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome: A disorder of the colon. Symptoms may include abdominal cramping, bloating, constipation and diarrhea.

Kegel exercises: Named after Dr. Arnold Kegel, a German doctor, kegels are exercises that consist of contracting and relaxing the muscles that form part of the pelvic floor.

Laparoscopic surgery: A minimally invasive surgical technique involving small incisions through the skin, allowing the doctor to insert tiny instruments for viewing, removing or repairing internal structures. Pelvic laparoscopy is used both for diagnosis and treatment for various pelvic floor disorders.

Pelvic floor exercises: These exercises (including kegel exercises) can help strengthen the muscles of the pelvic floor that support the bladder and close the sphincter. Bladder training can help you learn to delay urination.

Pelvic floor muscles: A group of muscles that act as a hammock or sling that support the organs in the pelvis. A woman’s urethra, vagina and anus pass through the pelvic floor muscles; they are affected by the pelvic floor muscles; function.

Pessary: A small, often cup-shaped device can be inserted into the vagina to support the uterus.

Prolapse: The protrusion or dropping of an internal organ out of its normal place, usually of the rectum (rectocele), uterus (uterine prolapse) or bladder (cystocele). This usually happens when supporting muscles become weak.

Rectocele: A protrusion or hernia of the rectum in to the vagina.

Rectum: The portion of the colon just above the anus.

Reflex incontinence: Loss of bladder control related to a problem in the spinal cord.

Robotic-assisted surgery: Using the DaVinci Surgical System

Sling procedure: For women who have continence issues or prolapsed organs, surgical placement of a sling or hammock around the neck of the bladder can help keep the urethra closed. This is used for controlling and treating stress and urge incontinence.

Sphincter: A circular band of muscle fibers that can close a natural opening in the bladder.

SRC: Surgical Review Corporation

Stress incontinence: Loss of urine related to physical exertion, usually associated with weakness of the pelvic floor muscles or sphincter.

Transient incontinence: Temporary loss of bladder control that is usually resolved when its cause is addressed.

Ureters: Two tubes connecting the kidneys to the bladder.

Urethra: Tube connecting the bladder to the outside of the body.

Urge incontinence: Loss of bladder control marked by a frequent and urgent need to urinate.

Urinary tract infection (UTI): Infection of the kidneys or bladder.

Urogynecologist: Gynecologists or obstetrician/gynecologists (Ob/Gyn), who specialize in the evaluation and treatment of urinary incontinence and conditions that affect the female pelvic floor.

Urologist: A surgeon who specializes in the urinary conditions of men and women. Many urologists have advanced training in the surgical correction and medical treatments for incontinence; but not as many have experience with nonsurgical treatments such as Kegel (pelvic muscle) exercises, bladder training, biofeedback, electrical stimulation and the use of pelvic support devices or urethral inserts.

Uterus: Female reproductive organ, located behind and just above the bladder.

Vagina: Female canal to the uterus, lies behind the bladder and in front of the rectum.

Voiding: The act of urinating or emptying the bladder.

Additional resources

For more information on pelvic disorders and their treatment, visit the following online sites: