Veterans Affairs

Smart artificial urinary sphincter to treat urinary incontinence

Device consisting of a cuff with pressure sensor surrounding a length of urethra to automatically apply a dynamic range of pressures

Medical & Biotechnology

Scientists at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) have recently invented a smart artificial urinary sphincter device to treat patients with urinary incontinence. The patented technology is available via patent license agreement to companies that would make, use, or sell it commercially.

Neurogenic stress urinary incontinence (NSUI) is defined as urinary incontinence that occurs on exertion, effort, sneezing, or coughing. The condition is common in spinal cord injury patients with lower motor neuron lesions, which can often occur in military conflicts, civil disasters, and domestic traumatic situations associated with improvised explosive devices. Malfunction of certain nerves in these patients prevent the sphincter controlling urination from working properly, leading to an open bladder neck and NSUI. It remains a debilitating condition that adversely impacts all domains of quality of life, and is associated with significant social stigma and health economic burden.

To address the need for a better alternative for patients suffering from NSUI, VA researchers have created an artificial urinary sphincter that consists of a cuff that surrounds a length of the urethra. The cuff applies a variable amount of pressure to the urethra, and a sensor is configured to detect the amount of pressure applied against the cuff by the urethra. Instead of only having two settings of open and closed, as current artificial urinary sphincters do, the new device has a dynamic range of pressures to mimic a real-life healthy sphincter. In addition, sensor responses can be used to signal automatic momentary increases in cuff pressure to prevent urinary leakage from coughing and sneezing.

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