Srinjoy Mitra, PhD, Kianoush Nazarpour, PhD, and Susan Shenkin, MD
Competition Sponsor: UK Research and Innovation
An overactive bladder is a common medical condition, particularly among the elderly. It leads to urinary incontinence (UI) and influences the quality of life for around 40% of those above 75 (>6million people in UK). People often consider this as a natural progression to old age and do not actively seek any treatment. However, UI is one of the main factors why the elderly lack confidence and give up their independence to move to care homes.
Conventional approaches to treat UI, e.g., drugs and bladder-catheterisation have several side effects (e.g., dry-mouth, constipation, confusion). Invasive electrical stimulation of the Tibial nerve (around the ankle) is an established alternative treatment. But a needle electrode inserted into the leg can be painful and distressing. Recently, a non-invasive version of this method has been demonstrated to be successful for older adults. However, it comprises multiple hospital visits per week over a duration of 2 months. Such a long treatment process leads to reduced adherence especially for the frail elderly who have already accepted UI to be a part of their life.
We propose an instrumented sock that the user can wear comfortably throughout the day, while electrodes weaved into it will stimulate the tibial nerve when necessary. The stimulation parameters will use an AI-based algorithm (via a smartphone) set by the clinician. The proposed system can be tried by a larger section of the population without surgery or repeated hospital visits. Hence, users will have much greater privacy and flexibility in managing incontinence.