Intended for healthcare professionals


Single blind, randomised controlled trial of pelvic floor exercises, electrical stimulation, vaginal cones, and no treatment in management of genuine stress incontinence in women

BMJ 1999; 318 doi: (Published 20 February 1999) Cite this as: BMJ 1999;318:487
  1. Kari Bø, professor (karib{at},
  2. Trygve Talseth, consultant urologistb,
  3. Ingar Holme, professor of biostatisticsc
  1. aNorwegian Centre for Physiotherapy Research and Norwegian University of Sport and Physical Education, PO Box 4014, Ullevål Stadion, 0806 Oslo, Norway
  2. bNational Hospital of Norway, Oslo
  3. c Norwegian University of Sport and Physical Education, Oslo
  1. Correspondence to: Professor Bø
  • Accepted 31 December 1998


Objective:To compare the effect of pelvic floor exercises, electrical stimulation,vaginal cones, and no treatment for genuine stress incontinence.

Design:Stratified, single blind, randomised controlled trial.


Participants: 107 women with clinically and urodynamically proved genuine stress incontinence. Mean (range) age was 49.5 (24-70) years, and mean (range) duration of symptoms 10.8 (1-45) years.

Interventions: Pelvic floor exercise (n=25) comprised 8-12 contractions 3 times a day and exercise in groups with skilled physical therapists once a week. The electrical stimulation group (n=25) used vaginal intermittent stimulation with the MS 106 Twin at 50 Hz 30 minutes a day. The vaginal cones group (n=27) used cones for 20 minutes a day. The untreated control group (n=30) was offered the use of a continence guard. Muscle strength was measured by vaginal squeeze pressure once a month.

Main outcome measures: Pad test with standardised bladder volume, and self report of severity.

Results:Improvement in muscle strength was significantly greater (P=0.03) after pelvic floor exercises (11.0 cm H2O (95% confidence interval 7.7 to 14.3) before v 19.2 cm H2O (15.3 to 23.1) after) than either electrical stimulation (14.8 cm H2O (10.9 to 18.7) v 18.6 cm H2O (13.3 to 23.9)) or vaginal cones (11.8 cm H2O (8.5 to 15.1) v 15.4 cm H2O (11.1 to 19.7)). Reduction in leakage on pad test was greater in the exercise group (−30.2 g; −43.3 to 16.9) than in the electrical stimulation group (−7.4 g; −20.9 to 6.1) and the vaginal cones group (−14.7 g; −27.6 to −1.8). On completion of the trial one participant in the control group, 14 in the pelvic floor exercise group, three in the electrical stimulation group, and two in the vaginal cones group no longer considered themselves as having a problem.

Conclusion: Training of the pelvic floor muscles is superior to electrical stimulation and vaginal cones in the treatment of genuine stress incontinence.


View Full Text