When UTIs disrupted Vanessa’s life, UI Health Care offered the treatment that worked best for her

Painful urinary tract infections (UTIs) made Vanessa Shinkle’s life miserable. They forced her to take time off from work, and time she spent with her family was often less enjoyable.

The infections were caused by pelvic organ prolapse. The muscles, ligaments, and connective tissues in her pelvic floor had weakened over time.

Vanessa, of Lynnville, Iowa, visited local doctors to try to get relief. After one surgical repair failed, she was told that the only solution was a hysterectomy, an option that Vanessa did not prefer.

Then she met with urogynecologist Kimberly Kenne, MD, MCR, at University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics to get a second opinion.

Kenne assured her that a hysterectomy was not necessary. Instead, Kenne performed a minimally invasive procedure to reposition and secure the prolapsed pelvic organs without removing the uterus.

“Dr. Kenne was amazing,” Vanessa says. “I feel so much better. The surgery was a huge success for me.”

Vanessa Shinkle crochets at home
Vanessa is enjoying life on her own terms now that her pelvic organ prolapse has been repaired by the experts in the UI Hospitals & Clinics Urogynecology and Pelvic Reconstructive Surgery Clinic.

A common condition that few people discuss

Pelvic organ prolapse is a type of pelvic floor disorder. Pelvic floor disorders cause conditions that many people prefer not to talk about openly, such as urinary incontinence, bowel issues, and sexual dysfunction.

Women who experience these conditions can feel alone, frustrated, and unsure of how to proceed with their care. But Kenne estimates that about 25% of women 20 years or older struggle with pelvic floor disorders.

“When women suffer from disorders of the pelvic floor, it impacts everything they do,” Kenne says. “Pelvic organ prolapse, the downward descent of the pelvic organs, interferes with your daily activities. While not life-threatening, it can impact a woman’s bowel, bladder, and sexual function and cause great discomfort.”

For Vanessa, the UTIs caused pain that disrupted her life.

It was just miserable. You can’t mess around with UTIs. I missed a lot of work. I felt so bad for my co-workers. It was a real quality-of-life issue.

— Vanessa Shinkle

Her difficulties were compounded by extreme fatigue caused by the medicine she had to take.

“I’d be in bed for a week at a time,” Vanessa says. “Once I got sick with a UTI while on vacation visiting my daughter in Texas. The antibiotics made me so tired. I couldn’t explore Dallas because I was sick in the hotel room.”

Iowa’s only clinic dedicated to pelvic floor disorders

Urogynecologists specialize in treating women with pelvic floor disorders. UI Hospitals & Clinics has Iowa’s only dedicated urogynecology clinic, offering a full range of surgical and nonsurgical treatments, so Kenne was able to offer Vanessa more options than her previous providers could.

The urogynecologists at UI Hospitals & Clinics are ob-gyn surgeons who completed additional years of fellowship training in urogynecology to specialize in this area.

“We tailor the surgical plan to the patient’s medical needs, desires, and lifestyle,” Kenne says. “Our goal is to provide the best possible repair that will last the longest.”

Kenne says women shouldn’t hesitate or feel embarrassed to talk with their doctors if symptoms arise.

“As women live longer, we can help them enjoy a good quality of life for longer,” Kenne says. “You may think it’s normal to leak urine or experience a bulge or pressure as you grow older and that you just have to deal with it. But actually, there are many ways we can help.”

The team works closely with urologists, colorectal surgeons, and physical therapists, as needed, to provide the best complete health care for women with issues of the bowel, bladder, and reproductive organs.

If people are bothered by their symptoms, it’s important that they know we are here. We can take care of them and help improve their quality of life.

Minimally invasive treatment

Vanessa’s condition caused the uterus, the front wall of the vagina, and the bladder to slip into the vaginal canal. This made it difficult for her to empty her bladder completely and contributed to her infections.

In December 2018, Kenne performed a sacrohysteropexy, lifting the uterus into its normal position and suspending it instead of removing it.

“We use a mesh material to lift the pelvic organs and vagina back in place,” Kenne says. “And we attach the mesh to a ligament that runs on the front of the tailbone. We do this procedure with minimally invasive techniques, using small incisions.”

Vanessa’s outcome was good, and she’s extremely grateful.

“I appreciated that Dr. Kenne understood my feelings about preserving the uterus,” Vanessa says. “On the day of surgery, I was at peace. I received excellent care.”

After the procedure, Vanessa rested at home for about eight weeks, and she now sees Kenne once a year for checkups.

“I don’t get those painful urinary tract infections anymore,” Vanessa says. “It’s wonderful. I’m not missing work, and I’m a more reliable team member.”

Lynnville, Iowa