Ann's Story - "A Bladder Augmentation Gave Me Freedom"

As a child, Ann developed an aversion to using the toilet, and instead attempted to hold her urine. Consequently, the muscular wall of her bladder thickened, and her bladder worked less effectively, making it harder for her to pass urine. Eventually, too much pressure in the bladder may overwhelm the urethral sphincter and cause the bladder to leak. Ann was repeatedly told her inability to hold urine was either psychological or because of bladder stones.

Ann lived with incontinence for forty years, visiting naturopaths and physiotherapists, desperate for a solution.


By age forty-two, something had to change. Ann felt she always needed to rush to the toilet:

“It was too difficult to manage. I couldn’t go anywhere, have a social life, or even wear trousers,” says Ann.

Dr Leslie Thompson, a urological surgeon, was the first to mention to Ann the possibility of a bladder augmentation. The augmentation (or clam cystoplasty) is an operation where the bladder is cut in two and a piece of bowel or intestine is inserted like a patch into the bladder wall. This improves the bladder’s ability to stretch.

Ann underwent the operation twice, with the second such a success she returned to work within a fortnight. She still performs self-catheterisation, not that that’s a bother at all. “At least I know my bladder is empty,” she says.

This operation changed Ann’s life. She can dress the way she pleases and enjoy hobbies such as hiking and trekking without worrying if there is a toilet nearby. She is continuing to show her dogs and teach dog obedience training, safe in the knowledge that

“I can now go to the toilet when I want to go, and not when my bladder demands.”

A clam cystoplasty or bladder augmentation, is a major operation for overactive bladder and urge incontinence. The name describes the procedure which involves cutting open the bladder, like a clam, and sewing a patch of intestine between the two halves. The patch can be made from part of the small intestine, large intestine, or stomach lining. The aim of the procedure is to increase bladder capacity and reduce the effect of the contractions of the bladder, for example, with an overactive bladder.