Norwegian scientists prepare to test bladder sensor

A tiny injectable sensor could help doctors spot life-threatening bladder problems without using a catheter.

Researchers from Norway’s Foundation for Scientific and Industrial Research (SINTEF) have developed the sensor as a way for people with nerve damage to be able to detect when their bladder is full, an issue that can lead to fatal damage to the kidneys.

They are about to test the sensor in human patients for the first time in the hope of developing a way to make it permanently implantable. They aim to end up with a wireless device that could be read by a smart phone so patients could check their bladder pressure at home.

More than 220,000 people in Norway suffer from a neurological disease that means that they have difficulties with urinating and incontinence. Spinal injuries can also damage the nerve supply to the bladder, meaning that people cannot tell when their bladder is full and creating excessively high pressure that can damage the kidneys.

‘Measuring pressure in the bladder is essential in order to see whether an operation is necessary, or whether the condition can be treated with medication,’ said Dr Thomas Glott of Sunnaas Hospital, where the tests are to be carried out.

Measurements are currently taken using a catheter which is inserted into the urethra so that the bladder can be filled with water. This is uncomfortable for the patient, and since the bladder is filled with saline at an unnaturally high speed, the method is also unreliable.

The sensor, however, can be inserted through the skin and into the bladder with a thin needle. “The sensor is positioned without causing discomfort to the patient, who can then move about normally without the disruptive catheter, and the risk of infection is reduced’, said Glott.