AUS implantation has been the standard treatment for refractory SUI in males caused by sphincter deficiency. The quantity and level of evidence is 2b, as per the European Association of Urology guidelines . Most information is gained from older case series after RP . In the present study, the primary patients’ source is urethral injuries associated UI with complex treatment experiences, which was quite different from previous literature [1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9]. Our success rate (75%) was comparable to the recent critical systematic review (61% and 100%) . Despite known complications, the patient satisfaction rates remained favorable. There were several notable findings from the current study that merit further discussion.
The mechanism of urethral injuries associated UI may be related to the original trauma or as a complication of transpubic surgery and damage to the associated nerves or sphincter. A previous study indicated that the development of incontinence could be related to the trauma itself, rather than the method of initial management . In our series, the majority of patients had undergone at least two urethral surgeries with recurrent incontinence. In our opinion, the subsequent urethral repair procedures, especially improper incision of urethral stricture, may contribute to the development of UI.
The use of AUS for urethral injuries associated UI has been limited because of functional urethral length, surrounding fibrosis, urethral strictures, and distorted anatomy of the pelvis. Scarring caused by previous urethral surgical procedures may lead to more difficult dissection. A decrease in functional urethral length may potentially reduce the efficacy of AUS surgery. Therefore, it is essential to confirm the status of the urethra and identify concomitant anastomotic strictures before AUS placement. If an anastomotic stricture is refractory or progressive, it is necessary to treat the stricture first. We prefer excising strictures narrower than 20-Fr, despite transient worsening of incontinence, and ensure an adequate recurrence-free period. The length of the period depends on individual conditions. If the stricture is asymptomatic or not progressive for at least 12 months and patients have acceptable post-void residual volumes (<50 ml), we suggest implanting the AUS device with maintenance of the current stricture, since aggressive excision may worsen a stable urethra.
NB dysfunction with UI secondary to ISD is also an indication for AUS implantation . NB patients may suffer from low bladder outlet resistance, and the AUS can offer such patients the possibility of spontaneous voiding. In the present study, two NB patients had cuffs easily and effectively placed. Four patients with detrusor overactivity and DSD had sphincterotomy or urethral stricture dilations, three of whom subsequently had augmentation cystoplasty before AUS implantation. Only one patient with pre-existing renal insufficiency and urethral stricture had an immediate infection and erosion after AUS implantation, and this patient ultimately had an AUS explantation. One NB patient had hydronephrosis and high pressure vesicoureteral reflux. We performed augmentation cystoplasty and concomitant ureteral reimplantation before AUS implantation. The patient had UUT function preserved with appropriate manipulation of the device (Fig. 1). AUS implantation is usually coupled with specific complications in NB patients, leading to higher re-operative rate than non-neurogenic patients. We recommend performing a staged procedure, confirming stable UUT function and no urethral stricture recurrence at least 6-month before AUS implantation, especially in complex reconstruction cases.
It has been reported that 30%–40% of patients who undergo prostatectomies complain of persistent PPI . Approximately 2%–5% of patients with PPI exhibit persistent incontinence for at least 1 year post-operatively, despite conservative therapy attempts . The incidence of PPI cases remains high despite advances in surgical technologies and techniques . The minor percentage of PPI cases in our report may reflect the relatively small number of RP performed in China compared to the United States, and a difference of referral pattern to our center. Based on our experience, some patients with PPI may undergo improvement of continence status to an acceptable extent over time; other patients prefer seeking treatment if the status worsens. A recent study concluded that preserving membranous urethral length, depth of the urethrovesical junction, and nerve were related to the recovery time and level of urinary continence after RP . Petroski. et al.  reported that UI can improve for up to 24 months after RP and early radiotherapy (RT) may interfere with or prolong return to continence. UI was more common in the early RT group and UI rates gradually improved over 3 years post-RT. In the same study, only 12 patients (26%) had an AUS placed. The process of PPI improvement should be considered when making a decision in terms of AUS placement for such patients.
The relatively higher rates of complications in the initial few patients (up to patient 7) may be a reflection of the learning curve needed to perfect the surgical techniques . Previous urethral damage (failed surgical procedures and urethral atrophy) can potentially result in technical difficulties and/or reduce the efficacy of AUS surgery . Most patients presenting with an AUS infection will have underlying cuff erosion . In the present study, infection currently developed in approximately 12.5% of our patients. Cuff erosion occurred early post-operatively (patient 4) due to infection and later after convalescence (patients 5, 6, and 7) due to urethral damage secondary to cuff pressure and improper catheterization. Patient 5 had a revision, but ultimately experienced explantation due to infection. Patient 7 had recurrent SUI related to erosion and infection 36 months after the initial implantation. The previous cuff was removed with the remainder of the device sealed in vivo and transcorporal implantation was performed 6 months later. A recent study showed urethral repair at the time of explantation for cuff erosion appears to prevent stricture development, thus facilitating successful replacement . We prefer a staged procedure allowing a period for healing after explantation, since infection and erosion often coexist. An aggressive repair may worsen urethra condition.
The transcorporal approach has been described as salvage surgical technique in patients with a damaged or frail urethra . Noticeably, the transcorporal-implanted patient experienced descending efficacy due to the refractory UI. An imaging study showed urethral atrophy at the 6-year visit. Urethral atrophy is a common cause of recurrence UI during follow-up with a functioning AUS . Urethral atrophy may result secondary to chronic compression of the urethra and urethral tissue hypoxia.
In our series, two patients (7 and 16) had previous male sling surgery, but with unsatisfactory outcomes; they finally received AUS implantation. Although there is insufficient long-term efficacy data on the male sling, most patients with moderate incontinence would choose a male sling and cite the primary reason being a motivation to avoid a mechanical device . The sling may be preferable as an initial procedure because an AUS can be attempted after sling failure . Generally, it is accepted that a convenient male sling could be an option for mild-to-moderate SUI, while AUS remains the gold standard treatment for severe SUI cases.
A potential weakness of this study was the relatively small sample, leading to a lack of power to detect subtle associations. The relatively higher rates of complications and differences in the frequency of causes may be attributable to the variety of etiologies for UI, complex conditions and combination surgeries. It is noteworthy that long-term follow-up and UUT monitoring is essential in special populations.