Artificial urethral sphincters could help stop persistent urine leakage experienced by those whose prostate gland has been removed.
Researchers from the Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, USA, tried out the new device on a group of elderly men, in the age group of 75 to 83 years and found it very effective. Those, in whom the device was inserted, through a surgical placement, came to use pads less and less, some doing away with them altogether.
Artificial sphincters are known to be of help to patients who are incontinent after surgery for prostate cancer or stress incontinence, trauma victims, and patients with birth defects in the urinary tract.
The device has three components: a pump, a balloon reservoir, and a cuff that encircles and closes the urethra. All three components are filled with fluid (e.g., saline). The cuff is connected to the pump, which is surgically implanted in the scrotum (in men) or the labia (in women). The pump is activated by squeezing or pressing a button. The fluid in the cuff empties into the reservoir, the urethra opens, and the bladder empties. Fluid from the reservoir returns to the cuff, which again closes the urethra.
Possible complications include infection, tissue breakdown, and mechanical failure.
Consequently there has been marked reluctance in using the device in the case of elders, particularly because of a possible lack of dexterity on the part of patients. But the Milwaukee study shows that even octogenarians can handle the device quite comfortably.