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Well-Known Wrinkle Reducer Could Revolutionize Overactive Bladder Treatment

Injecting Botox into the bladder is as effective as medication for treating urge incontinence in women, a national study involving UT Southwestern has found.

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The study could change the way an overactive bladder is treated by giving women an alternative to medication, says Joseph Schaffer, M.D., head of Female Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery at UT Southwestern.

“Instead of taking medication every day, women could come to their doctor’s office once or twice a year and get an injection,” Dr. Schaffer says. “It’s a three-minute office procedure.”

Urge incontinence causes a sudden, intense urge to urinate and involuntary urine leakage due to abnormal bladder muscle contractions. The condition affects about 16 percent of women nationally, primarily those over age 45.

The study found that both Botox therapy and medications reduced the number of daily overactive bladder episodes from five to one or two. A key difference, however, appears to give Botox the edge: Researchers discovered that women injected with Botox were twice as likely as those in the medication group to report that their urinary leakage stopped completely within six months.

Though Botox has been used to treat urinary incontinence in women with neurological disorders such as multiple sclerosis, it’s just recently been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for broader use. “This study shows that an even larger population could benefit from the use of Botox,” Dr. Schaffer says.

How it Works

Botox is injected into the muscles of the bladder during cystoscopy, a procedure performed under local anesthesia that involves inserting a tube into the urethra. Though effective, the treatment does have potential side effects: Some women in the trial contracted urinary tract infections or had trouble emptying their bladders.