Incontinence is one of the many frustrating and embarrassing effects of severe spinal cord injuries.
Currently, there are only two ways to help prevent incontinence: implants that require the bladder nerves to be severed, or the use of painful and unreliable catheters. Both of these alternatives are known to cause inconvenient side effects. However, a new study involving a prosthetic neuro-bladder device may help in spinal cord injury (SCI) bladder restraint, without painful or inconvenient side effects.
The device, created and currently being analyzed by James Fawcett of the University of Cambridge, allows an implant to sense when the bladder is full and keep it from automatically emptying itself. The process takes advantage of tiny nerves in the bladder, called dorsal rootlets, hat send signals to the spine (and then to the brain) telling it when the bladder is full. As these nerves are often damaged when the spinal cord is injured, the device intercepts and records these signals before they reach the damaged spinal cord.
When it is full, the device sends a high-frequency electrical pulse to the bladder. This stops the bladder’s natural reflex from contracting and purging the urine, keeping any from being spilled. A low frequency electrical pulse, administered by the user pushing a button, allows the bladder to contract and urinate when appropriate.
So far the results have been successful when tested on rats and provide encouraging data for human trials. Although a lot of work still needs to be done, Fawcett and his co-workers are optimistic about the device’s potential.
The Virginia spinal cord injury lawyers at Shevlin Smith wish Prof. Fawcett good luck with his endeavors and hope that we will be able to see significant advancement with his neuro-bladder prosthetic aid in the near future.