OHSU Studies Acupuncture to Treat Bladder Control

08/31/00    Portland, Ore.

The Center for Women's Health at Oregon Health Sciences University is launching a study to test the effectiveness of acupuncture treatment for female incontinence, or overactive bladder. Although the embarrassing problem affects an estimated 30 percent of American women to varying degrees, treatments with medication, physical therapy and surgery are not always effective or present various side effects.

Recent preliminary studies have indicated that certain acupuncture points can treat symptoms associated with an overactive bladder. Sandra Emmons, M.D., and Lesley Otto, M.D., assistant professors of obstetrics and gynecology at OHSU, have proposed a mid-scale scientific study to test the validity of the treatment.

"No one likes to talk about urinary incontinence, even to their doctors, yet millions of women suffer to the point of isolation because of this problem," said Emmons. "We're hoping to find something to help them, whether it comes from Eastern medicine or Western medicine."

To conduct the comparison study, Emmons and Otto will give the incontinence acupuncture treatment to half the participants and will give a similar, effective acupuncture treatment for relaxation to the other participants as a placebo. Patients will be treated for four weeks and during that time will complete two separate three-day voiding diaries to document their frequency of urination. Comparisons will be made between the two groups to determine if the study group has less frequent or less urgent voiding episodes than the control group.

Doctors are looking for a total of 80 women to take part in the study. To qualify, patients must be at least 18 years old, experience at least eight voids per day, have a sense of urgency associated with voiding and have at least two urgent incontinent episodes during the 72-hour diary periods. Interested participants can call 503 494-3587 for more information on the study.

The study is funded in part by a grant from the Center for Women's Health at OHSU. The center is a multidisciplinary institution focused on the research, education and treatment of women's health conditions. The center funded $75,000 in research grants last year.