Pelvic floor stimulation (PFS) is proposed as a nonsurgical treatment option for women and men with urinary incontinence. This approach involves either electrical stimulation of pelvic floor musculature or extracorporeal pulsed magnetic stimulation.
Urinary incontinence is a common condition defined as an involuntary leakage of urine. Women are twice as likely to be affected as men, and prevalence increases with age. The severity of incontinence affects quality of life and treatment decisions. The types of urinary incontinence include stress, urge, overflow, functional, and post-prostatectomy incontinence. Nonsurgical treatment options may include pharmacologic treatment, pelvic floor muscle exercises, bladder training exercises, electrical stimulation, and neuromodulation.
Pelvic floor stimulation (PFS) involves the electrical stimulation of pelvic floor muscles using either a probe wired to a device for controlling the electrical stimulation or, more recently, extracorporeal electromagnetic (also called magnetic) pulses. The intent of the intervention is to stimulate the pudendal nerve in order to activate the pelvic floor musculature; it is thought that activation of these muscles will lead to improved urethral closure. In addition, PFS is thought to improve partially denervated urethral and pelvic floor musculature by enhancing the process of reinnervation. The methods of electrical PFS have varied in location (e.g., vaginal, rectal), stimulus frequency, stimulus intensity or amplitude, pulse duration, pulse to rest ratio, treatments per day, number of treatment days per week, length of time for each treatment session, and overall time period for device use between clinical and home settings. Variation in the amplitude and frequency of the electrical pulse is used to mimic and stimulate the different physiologic mechanisms of the voiding response, depending on the type of etiology of incontinence, i.e., either detrusor instability, stress incontinence, or a mixed pattern. Magnetic PFS does not require an internal electrode; instead, patients sit fully clothed on a specialized chair with an embedded magnet.
Patients receiving electrical PFS may undergo treatment in a physician’s office or physical therapy facility, or patients may undergo initial training in a physician’s office followed by home treatment with a rented or purchased pelvic floor stimulator. Magnetic PFS may be delivered in the physician’s office.
Several electrical stimulators have been cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In March 2006, the MyoTrac Infiniti™ (Thought Technology, Ltd.), a nonimplanted electrical stimulator for treating urinary incontinence, was cleared for marketing by the FDA through the 510(k) process. Predicate devices, also used to treat urinary incontinence, include the Pathway™ CTS 2000 (Prometheus Group) and the InCare® PRS (Hollister Inc.).
In June 2000, the NeoControl® Pelvic Floor Therapy System (Neotonus, Inc) was approved by the FDA through the premarket approval process for treating urinary incontinence in women. This device, formerly known as the Neotonus Model 1000 Magnetic Stimulator, provides noninvasive electromagnetic stimulation of pelvic floor musculature. The magnetic system is embedded in a chair seat; patients sit on the chair fully clothed and receive the treatment. The magnetic fields are controlled by a separate power unit.