Voiding the bladder is one of the most basic human functions, so mundane that we pay it little mind most of the time. But when urinary problems arise, such as overactive bladder, incontinence, inability to void, or painful urination, this basic function suddenly becomes difficult or even impossible to ignore. Urinary problems can cause severe quality of life issues, impacting a patient’s social activities and work life.
Medication can alleviate urinary conditions for some sufferers, but other patients may require surgery. Two Minnesota-based companies offer non-invasive treatments for common urinary problems:
Urologix (ULGX), based in Minneapolis, has developed a non-invasive treatment for a prostate problem that affects the majority of older men. Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) is a condition in which the prostate gland becomes enlarged and presses up against the urethra, making urination painful or difficult. Although the prostate grows throughout a man’s life, men typically don’t experience problems until they are older. According to the National Institutes of Health, more than half of men in their sixties, and as many as 90 percent of men in their seventies and eighties, experience symptoms of BPH. The condition is not life-threatening, but it can lead to complications such as the inability to urinate, kidney stones, and kidney damage.
Cooled ThermoTherapy, a patented technology developed by Urologix for use in the company’s Targis System, uses targeted microwave energy to heat and destroy enlarged prostate tissue while a cooling mechanism protects the healthy surrounding tissue. The outpatient procedure takes approximately 30 minutes. Although patients may initially need to be catheterized for a week after the procedure, many men who undergo the procedure report long-term relief of their BPM symptoms. About 225,000 patients worldwide have undergone the treatment. Cooled ThermoTherapy offers distinct advantages over other BPH treatments: Medication has to be taken for the rest of the patient’s life and may have undesirable side effects, while surgery requires a hospital stay and comes with a higher risk of complications.
Minnetonka-based Uroplasty (UPI) is a medical device company specializing in the minimally invasive treatment of voiding dysfunctions and pelvic disorders. The company’s lead product is the Urgent PC Neuromodulation System for urinary urgency, frequency, and incontinence. The system relies on percutaneous tibial nerve stimulation (PTNS), a procedure in which a needle electrode is inserted near the tibial nerve. A handheld stimulator carries electrical impulses to the sacral plexus, which lines the posterior wall of the pelvis. Patients undergo 12 30-minute treatment sessions, followed by maintenance therapy as needed. Clinical trials and published studies have PTNS shown to be effective in treating 60 to 80 percent of patients.
Uroplasty also markets the Macroplastique injectable bulking agent to treat adult female stress urinary incontinence, a disorder characterized by urine leakage with increased abdominal pressure. Macroplastique is injected into the tissues around the urethra to enhance urethral closure and improve bladder control. U.S. sales of Microplastique nearly doubled in fiscal year 2009 due to sales and marketing efforts as well as the withdrawal of a competitor from the market.