Novel neurostimulation of autonomic pelvic nerves overcomes Bladder-sphincter dyssynergia

Wendy Yen Xian Peh, Roshini Mogan, Xin Yuan Thow, Soo Min Chua, Astrid Rusly, Nitish V. Thakor, Shih Cheng Yen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


The disruption of coordination between smooth muscle contraction in the bladder and the relaxation of the external urethral sphincter (EUS) striated muscle is a common issue in dysfunctional bladders. It is a significant challenge to overcome for neuromodulation approaches to restore bladder control. Bladder-sphincter dyssynergia leads to undesirably high bladder pressures, and poor voiding outcomes, which can pose life-threatening secondary complications. Mixed pelvic nerves are potential peripheral targets for stimulation to treat dysfunctional bladders, but typical electrical stimulation of pelvic nerves activates both the parasympathetic efferent pathway to excite the bladder, as well as the sensory afferent pathway that causes unwanted sphincter contractions. Thus, a novel pelvic nerve stimulation paradigm is required. In anesthetized female rats, we combined a low frequency (10 Hz) stimulation to evoke bladder contraction, and a more proximal 20 kHz stimulation of the pelvic nerve to block afferent activation, in order to produce micturition with reduced bladder-sphincter dyssynergia. Increasing the phase width of low frequency stimulation from 150 to 300 μs alone was able to improve voiding outcome significantly. However, low frequency stimulation of pelvic nerves alone evoked short latency (19.9-20.5 ms) dyssynergic EUS responses, which were abolished with a non-reversible proximal central pelvic nerve cut. We demonstrated that a proximal 20 kHz stimulation of pelvic nerves generated brief onset effects at lower current amplitudes, and was able to either partially or fully block the short latency EUS responses depending on the ratio of the blocking to stimulation current. Our results indicate that ratios > 10 increased the efficacy of blocking EUS contractions. Importantly, we also demonstrated for the first time that this combined low and high frequency stimulation approach produced graded control of the bladder, while reversibly blocking afferent signals that elicited dyssynergic EUS contractions, thus improving voiding by 40.5 ± 12.3%. Our findings support advancing pelvic nerves as a suitable neuromodulation target for treating bladder dysfunction, and demonstrate the feasibility of an alternative method to non-reversible nerve transection and sub-optimal intermittent stimulation methods to reduce dyssynergia.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number186
JournalFrontiers in Neuroscience
Issue numberMAR
StatePublished - Mar 21 2018


  • Bladder
  • Dyssynergia
  • High frequency stimulation
  • Micturition
  • Neurostimulation
  • Pelvic nerves

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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