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University of Liège and CHU develop a new surgical technique for treating feminine stress urinary incontinence


According to estimates, 10 % of women suffer from urinary incontinence, which can occur at all ages. Stress urinary incontinence is the most prevalent form of the condition and can result from intensive physical exercise, childbirth, weakened pelvic floor muscles, a decrease in blood oestrogen levels, a gynaecological operation or tissue ageing. Most stress urinary incontinence cases can be treated or cured. Several treatments, including surgery, have long helped patients with this psychologically unpleasant, sociologically undermining condition.

In the last decade, operating techniques have become less and less invasive, greatly improving patient comfort. In 1995, Prof. Dr Ulf Ulmsten from Sweden developed a “revolutionary” method called TVT (Tension Free Vaginal Tape), which is marketed by Gynecare. During this procedure, a PROLENE® mesh tape is inserted through a small incision in the vagina to support the urethra during stress, thereby preventing urine loss. This relatively simple treatment takes approximately 30 minutes, is performed under local anaesthesia and has excellent results (85% successfully treated).

An Original Technique

The TVT technique was introduced in Belgium in 1998. Gynaecologists and urologists created the “Belgium TVT Study Group” in May 1999. In view of the technique’s positive results, the Belgian National Sickness and Invalidity Insurance Institute agreed to finance the device in January 2001.

Jean de Leval is a Professor at the University of Liège’s Medicine Faculty and a urologist at Liège University Hospital. He took part in the Belgium TVT Study Group’s activities very early and showed fellow urologists the significance and efficacy of this technique. With a view to constant innovation, Professor de Leval simultaneously contributed to the TVT technique’s evolution in order to offer surgeons an additional alternative.

At the beginning of the 2000’s, the technique for placing the TVT mesh tape evolved. Surgeons began placing the mesh through two natural orifices in the pelvis called obturator holes, using needles guided from the perineum to the vagina (“outside in”). Professor de Leval’s technique also places the mesh using the obturator holes, but the novelty in his approach is that the needles placing the mesh pass from the vagina outward through the perineum (i.e., “inside out”), away from other organs.

The new method is based on Professor de Leval’s Agrégation thesis on continence mechanisms. The new instruments required for the surgical operation were designed by Liège University Hospital in cooperation with Medi-Line, located in the LIEGE Science Park.

Partnership Agreement

The American company Gynecare purchased the technique’s marketing rights and will distribute the Liège-developed method throughout the world.

The partnership agreement also provides for a number of contributions from Liège partners. Gynecare will work with Liège-based company Medi-Line to produce a part of the medical device, and with Professor de Leval’s team and the University Hospital on training aimed at surgeons specialised in this pathology.

The University of Liège and Liège University Hospital are very pleased about this agreement, which allows them to promote joint research results and illustrates the successful synergies between the university institution and hospital

Didier Moreau | alfa
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