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Non-invasive spectroscopy may help investigate urinary incontinence

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A cell phone-sized, wireless near-infrared device is as reliable as the current “gold standard” invasive tests in determining bladder disease, according to researchers.

The new physiologic information gathered through near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) could also advance treatment that tackles the root causes of urinary incontinence, says the research team.

In this study of 37 healthy and symptomatic adults and children, a wireless NIRS device is placed on the skin over the bladder and held in place by a strap.

Software measures the differences in the amount of light shone through the skin to - and returning from - the bladder wall. The data provides researchers with a measure of changing hemoglobin concentration and the levels of oxygen and volume in the blood.

The research team found consistent patterns of normal oxygen availability and blood supply in the bladder muscle of healthy subjects during urination. Meanwhile, the patterns in children with symptoms due to voiding problems were quite different and matched patterns seen when blood flow or oxygen supply is inadequate for normal muscle function.

Lead author Dr. Andrew Macnab, a pediatrics and urology professor at UBC and Head of the NIRS study group at the Bladder Care Centre at UBC Hospital said: “Currently, diagnosing bladder dysfunction usually requires an invasive test that involves urethral and rectal catheter insertion to measure bladder pressure and urine output - a stressful and painful procedure that provides a limited amount of physiologic information.”

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