Sacral neuromodulation in functional urinary retention: an effective way to restore voiding


S.R. Aboseif, Director, Neurourology & Reconstructive Surgery, Department of Urology, Kaiser Permanente Medical Center, 4900 Sunset Boulevard, 2nd Floor, Los Angeles, CA 90027, USA.


Objective  To determine the long-term efficacy and complications of sacral nerve stimulation as an alternative therapy for functional unobstructive urinary retention, often considered to be psychogenic and effectively treated by clean intermittent catheterization, but for which pelvic floor dysfunction has been recognized as a possible cause.

Patients and methods  Twenty patients (17 women and three men, mean age 48 years) with idiopathic, unobstructive functional urinary retention and in whom other forms of therapy had failed, had a pulse generator implanted (Medtronic, Minneapolis, MN, USA) and a sacral nerve implant. Their mean duration of symptoms was 68 months; 13 patients had chronic pelvic and perineal pain associated with their obstructive voiding symptoms. All patients were managed with clean intermittent catheterization and pharmacological therapy (α-blockers) before the procedure. All patients had a percutaneous nerve evaluation before the permanent implant, which showed> 50% improvement in their symptoms. All patients were evaluated at 1, 6 12, 18 and 24 months, then yearly thereafter. The results were assessed both subjectively by patient's symptoms and objectively by checking the postvoid residual volume (PVR) and voided volume.

Results  Eighteen patients were able to void spontaneously with a mean increase in voided volume from 48 to 198 mL, and a significant decrease in PVR from 315 to 60 mL. Eighteen of the patients had a ≥ 50% improvement in their symptoms and said they would recommend the therapy to a friend or relative. Complications occurred in six patients.

Conclusion  Sacral nerve stimulation is an effective and durable new approach to functional urinary retention, with few associated complications. Test stimulation provides a valuable tool for selecting patients.