An ankle bracelet worn for 30 minutes a day could help control an over-active bladder

A bracelet worn around the ankle could be the key to reducing bladder problems for millions of people, according to new NHS research.

Trials involving the University College London (UL) Hospitals Trust used an ankle bracelet that stimulated an implant placed into the tibial nerve at the bottom of the leg to trigger impulses that travel up the nerve to the bladder, helping to control over-activity.

(Lauren Hurley/PA)

According to the most recent round of trials, it can cut trips to the toilet by more than 50% as a result of wearing the device – which could aid the between six and seven million people in the UK who are said to suffer from an over-active bladder.

The new implant used in the trials was made by medical firm BlueWind, who say it is 90% smaller than other neurostimulators on the market. It is implanted into the ankle, next to the tibial nerve, which travels up to the sciatic nerve – which then runs further up the leg to the pelvis. Here it branches off, but one such connection is to the sacral nerve, which controls bladder function.

It only needs to be worn for 30 minutes, with patients using it three times a week at first, but reducing this as more bladder control is gained. The implant is also battery-free so does not require additional procedures to replace them, with the controls and battery instead housed in the bracelet.

(Dave Howarth/PA)

Dr Sohier Elneil – from UCL – said of the trials – which have included tests in the UK and the Netherlands: “The device was easy to implant, activate and use.

“European participants in the study liked the idea of such a small implant and a very short procedure; They were very favourable to having the flexibility and sense of control by treating themselves at home.

“The patients were also relieved from the burden of logistics associated with therapy in the clinic.”

There’s no word yet on further trials, though BlueWind is said to be working on an injectable version of the implant to be announced next year.


 

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