Trends in Ambulatory Management of Urinary Incontinence in Women in the United States

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Urinary incontinence (UI) is a common condition, but despite the availability of guidelines, variations exist in the care of patients. We sought to assess the changes in assessment and management of women with UI over time in the United States.


The National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey and the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey are annual surveys from a nationally representative sample of visits to physicians. From 1999 through 2010, we identified visits by women to physicians where the chief complaint was UI using reason-for-visit and International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision codes.


Using 2-year intervals between 1999–2000 and 2009–2010, the number of visits by women with UI to physicians increased (5.3 million to 6.8 million). There was no difference in patient age, race/ethnicity, or physician specialty (primary care, urology, gynecology). The majority did not have their incontinence characterized (42.4%–47.4%). The use of urinalysis significantly decreased (53%–37.2%, P = 0.02), whereas antimuscarinic use significantly increased (16.7%–35%, P = 0.006). There was an overall increased trend in number of referrals to another physician (5.8%–14.7%, P = 0.06). Urologists had a significant increase in antimuscarinic use (23.5%–44.2%, P = 0.003). All physician specialties demonstrated a decreased trend in use of urinalysis between 1999 and 2010. Although imaging rates were low, they were at highest rates among urologists.


The majority of women do not have the type of UI characterized, whereas there is underutilization of urinalysis. Given the widespread prevalence of UI and its implications on quality of life, greater adherence to guidelines is warranted.

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