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This is a general term applied to electrical stimulators of the bladder or urethra. In some disorders of the urinary bladder normal emptying is impossible, usually due to disruption of the nerve supply. An electrical stimulator (usually implanted) can assist emptying of the bladder by stimulating the bladder muscle directly or by stimulating the nerves where they leave the spinal column. Only a small number of such devices have been implanted.
Stimulation of the urethra to assist closure in cases of urinary incontinence has been more successful and some hundreds of cases have been treated by implantable stimulators to provide enhanced contraction of the muscles in and around the urethra. The implants are usually passive and are energized by radio or inductive connection to a transmitter outside the body which the patient wears over the implant.
The main components of the system would be an external radio frequency pulse generator driving a coil applied to the skin over the implant. The implant usually consists of a receiving coil and a detector circuit feeding electrodes sewn into the muscles near the urethra.
Sometimes external stimulators are used to test the likely effect of an implanted stimulator or as a substitute for it. These may use electrodes mounted on a plug or pessary which fits into the rectum or vagina.
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