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Newly Engineered Material May Reduce Urinary Incontinence Complications


Annals of Long-Term Care: Clinical Care and Aging. 2016;24(4):46.


ALTC Editors

Researchers at the University of Sheffield have developed a novel implantable material which could reduce the number of debilitating side-effects that occur as a result of using a material that is too rigid for surgical treatment of incontinence. 

The research was led by Sheila MacNeil, PhD, Department of Materials Science and Engineering and her team at the University of Sheffield, UK. Their work has resulted in two separate papers that provide evidence for the use of their novel implantable device made of elastic polyurethane, which replicates the natural recoil of a healthy pelvic floor.

Current treatment for the condition uses a rigid woven polypropylene mesh device, implanted under the urethra to repair damaged or weakened tissue. The material used in this device was originally designed for hernia repairs but was rapidly repurposed in the mid-1990’s for use in urinary incontinence surgery, for which it is now used worldwide. Over the last decade, thousands of patients have developed complications from the use of the current material after stress urinary incontinence surgery. Serious complications include chronic pain, infection, failure, or erosion of the implant.

Dr MacNeil said, “After 6 years of product development and pre-clinical testing, the elastic polyurethane material we have rigorously tested is neither too strong nor too brittle; it does not weaken over time, and it aims to avoid the complications that currently occur with using polypropylene mesh.”

The team have implanted the device in physiologically relevant animal models through a European collaboration. This is an important aspect of pre-clinical assessment to ensure that the implanted material is compatible. This demonstrates that their device is able to integrate into tissues and is associated with much less of an inflammatory response than the current polypropylene mesh used.

The research at Sheffield could mark the beginning of a clinical testing phase of this new device, to end the pain and misery for thousands of patients worldwide. The two papers were published in PLOS ONE and the Journal of Urology in February and March of 2016, respectively (doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0149971; —Amanda Del Signore

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