Canadian procedure promising for incontinence sufferers
Published Wednesday, May 20, 2009 10:13AM EDT
Millions of women with a bladder condition that prevents them from retaining urine may benefit from a new promising Canadian procedure.
Researchers in Canada are showing that they can repair leaky bladders using cells from the women themselves.
Stress urinary incontinence is a difficult condition whereby even a laugh or a cough can cause urine leakage. Weakened bladder muscles are often the result of childbirth, cesarean sections or hysterectomies.
Thanks to the new medical advancement, women such as Vania de Souza may not have to suffer anymore.
Life for de Souza used to be one trip to the washroom after the other. Even if she was leaving the house for half an hour, she had to plot out her journey to accomodate her problem.
"I had to actually end up learning where there are the washrooms," she told CTV News in Toronto.
It got to the point where the 46-year-old had become a prisoner in her own home, where she could at least be near a familiar washroom. "The times that I had accidents (were) extremely embarrassing and extremely frustrating," she said.
Dr. Lesley Carr, a urologist at Sunnybrook Health Center in Toronto, calls urinary incontinence "one of the last taboos."
"It's embarrassing. So often women won't speak to their physicians about it," Carr told CTV News.
But Vania's problem is now resolved, thanks to the Canadian experimental procedure. For the procedure, doctors take a small muscle sample from the patient's leg. They then isolate key muscle stem cells, coaxing them to multiply millions of times.
The newly-grown cells, called "autologous muscle-derived (AMD) cells," are then injected into the bladder, which then repair the bladder muscle that controls urine flow.
The procedure has worked for the majority of the 29 women treated in Toronto and Calgary with no side effects. One patient, who had low doses of the cells injected into her bladder, experienced notably worsened incontinence.
"We were able to grow up cells and safely inject them without adverse effect," reports Carr. "In some, we were able eradicate the stress incontinence, and in about two-thirds we achieved significant overall improvement."
Quality of life measures improved in 68 per cent of patients three months after the first injection of AMD cells, and in 67 per cent of patients three months after the second injection.
Symptoms improved in 61 per cent of patients at three months after the first injection and three months after the second injection. Urinary leaks were reduced after both injections. At 12 months, 13 of 17 patients (76.5 per cent) reported an overall reduction in stress leaks and urgency compared to baseline; four reported no leaks.
The results were presented at the American Urological Association Annual Scientific Meeting in April.
De Souza said she no longer feels the need to go to the washroom every hour. "I can walk anywhere," she says.
Carr called it the most "exciting" research she's been able to be a part of, "because it is new, using restorative therapy."
With a report from CTV medical specialist Avis Favaro and producer Elizabeth St. Philip