BOSTON - A new treatment option offers hope to baby boomers facing a problem common to aging - leaky bladders. The hope comes from an implanted pacemaker that connects to and stimulates the sacral nerve that helps to regulate the human bladder.
With our aging population, incontinence is an ever growing problem. Leakage with coughing, sneezing, or stress incontinence is common and can be improved or cured with a variety of options. Urge incontinence - or leakage when trying to get to the bathroom and urinating frequently - are also common but often do not respond to medications says Anurag K. Das, M.D., a urologist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and lead author of a recent study in the journal Urology that demonstrates the serious impact unresolved urination problems can have on a patient's quality of life. In some cases, patients can find themselves with frequency and urgency problems that send them running up to 20 times a day.
The study gauged quality of live issues in 89 patients facing bladder problems. Initially, 73 percent of respondents were observed to have depression - and almost every other aspect of their quality of life was lower than that of the general population.
Patients enrolled in the nerve stimulation group showed significantly improved scores for depression and quality of life during the first three months after treatment, benefits maintained at a six-month follow-up. Patients who did not receive nerve stimulation experienced a slight worsening of scores.
"The dramatic improvement seen in the quality of life scores of these patients is remarkable and reflects the importance of urinary problems for today's active patients, and that improving these problems results in a better quality of life," says Das.
Initially, surgeons place a lead to the sacral nerve and connect it to an external stimulator. If significant improvement is shown a pacemaker is implanted under the skin, procedures that can take place without the use of general anesthesia.