New way to treat overactive bladder

September 8, 2010 3:29:43 PM PDT
Not too many people want to talk about it, but it's a problem that impacts about 30-million Americans, more than the population of the entire state of New York.

Overactive bladder disrupts lives and can make people prisoners in their own homes. Drugs can help, but doctors say up to 80 percent of people quit taking them because of side effects or because they don't work.

So, could a little zap to the ankle be a drug-free solution for overactive bladder?

For 20 years, Linda Krogstad tried to work in her garden, but mother nature always interrupted. "I had no control over it?I've tried everything," said Krogstad.

Her overactive bladder was holding her hostage. Drugs, physical therapy and surgery didn't work, so she tried something new.

It's called Percutaneous Tibial nerve stimulation or PTNS.

"We're trying to target the nerve that's coming down the leg, called the tibial nerve," said Dr. Suzette Sutherland, Urologist metro urology, centers of continence care and family urology in Minnesota.

Urologists insert a small needle near the ankle and attach a device that sends electrical pulses up the leg to the sacral plexus, a major nerve superhighway in the pelvis that controls the bladder.

"It sort of changes the way the nerves are perceiving what's going on in the pelvic area just to try to get all that messaging and information to calm down," adds Dr. Sutherland.

Journal of Urology patients sit while the device stimulates the nerve for 30 minutes, two to four times a month for three months. The treatment lasts for about a month, and then the routine is repeated. Recent studies found PTNS worked as well as meds, without side effects. 55-percent of patients in one trial reported significant improvement. The problem is cost. It's not always covered by insurance, and it can run $200 a session and up to $1,000 a month.

Krogstad says, "I liked that I got to go in every two weeks, didn't have to have anything put into my body."

Now, Linda sets her own schedule. "It's just nice to be able to be outside and not have to run to the bathroom all the time," she adds.