Transcutaneous electrical stimulation of thigh muscles in the treatment of detrusor overactivity

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To investigate the clinical effects on detrusor overactivity of a new method of transcutaneous reciprocal electrical stimulation of the thigh muscles.

Patients and methods

Nineteen patients with detrusor overactivity, comprising 14 with detrusor hyperreflexia reflexia (DH) and five with idiopathic detrusor instability(IDI), were studied. Electrical stimulation was applied alternately to the quadriceps and hamstring muscles of one or both legs through surface electrodes for 20 min. The treatment was given once a day for 14 days and then the patients were evaluated urodynamically.


All 19 patients tolerated the therapy well and none reported any adverse effects. The mean maximum cystometric capacity increased significantly (P< 0.05) after treatment. In 11 of the 19 patients, the maximum cystometric capacity was increased by > 50% of the pretreatment value; this occurred in eight of 14 of those with DH and in three of five of those with IDI. In six of the 11 who responded in this way, there was a clinical improvement in their urinary incontinence and frequency for several weeks to 3 months after the period of therapy. A second 14-day treatment was also effective in all four patients who underwent a repeat trial.


This method of transcutaneous electrical stimulation can inhibit DH as well as IDI with no adverse effects. The suppressive effect on detrusor overactivity may persist for several months and repeat trials appear to be effective. Thus, we believe that this new stimulation technique should be tried as an alternative to other types of electrical stimulation and augmentation cystoplasty.

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