IMPRESSplus 2017 Funded Project

Pelvic Nerve Stimulation to control Urinary Urge Incontinence

  • Principal Investigator

    Dr Thelma Lovick, Hon Professorial Research Fellow in Integrative Neuroscience
    University of Bristol

  • Co-Investigators

    Dr Jonathan Crook, University of Bristol


This project is an continuation of work in 2016 and 2017 funded through the IMPRESS Proof of Concept and Follow-on Award scheme.

Urinary urge incontinence (UUI) , rated the most bothersome of lower urinary tract symptoms, is a condition where the act of voiding is normal but voluntary control over the process is impaired. Current treatments are often unsatisfactory.  Drug treatments have unpleasant side effects and injections of botulinum toxin into the bladder carry a risk of high residual urinary volume, which requires patients to self-catheterise and risks urinary tract infection. Neuromodulation techniques using nerve stimulators to relax the bladder require continuous operation and/or frequent schedules of reapplication, and pain is a common limiting side effect.

Bristol University are developing a new approach using high (kilohertz) frequency stimulation of the pelvic nerve to produce a temporary reversible inhibition of voiding at the time of need i.e. at the onset of urge. In anaesthetised rats they showed that stimulation of the pelvic nerve initiated at the onset of an imminent void (when humans would be expected to experience urge) can rapidly and reversibly inhibit urination.  With funding from this IMPRESSplus 2017 Award, they can now develop and refine the technique for use in conscious rats. Their future goal is to translate the findings in rats into humans via an intermediary stage in pigs for which they plan to collaborate with the University of Denmark. They hope that the ultimate outcome from this research will be an implantable patient-controlled stimulator for human use which can be switched on by the individual at the onset of urge to inhibit involuntary voiding, thereby ‘buying time’ for the person to find a toilet.


Read the publication

Incontinence Management & PRevention through Engineering and ScienceS