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An artificial sphincter consists of three parts:
- A cuff that fits around the bladder neck
- A pressure regulating balloon
- A pump that inflates the cuff
To treat urinary incontinence, the cuff is placed around the bladder neck so that when it is inflated, the urethra will close tightly. The pressure regulating balloon will be placed under the tissues of the lower abdomen. The balloon is filled with a liquid (occasionally, an iodine-based solution will be used so that it will be visualized when x-ray procedures are performed).
The control pump mechanism is placed in the labia for women, and in the scrotum for men. To use the sphincter, the person will compress (squeeze) the pump to divert fluid from the urethral cuff to the balloon. This action will allow the sphincter to relax so that the person can urinate. The cuff will then re-inflate on its own in 1 to 2 minutes.
Review Date 4/10/2022
Updated by: Kelly L. Stratton, MD, FACS, Associate Professor, Department of Urology, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, Oklahoma City, OK. Also reviewed by David C. Dugdale, MD, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.