Mechanisms underlying the pathogenesis of urinary bladder instability - new perspectives for the treatment of reflex incontinence

Restor Neurol Neurosci. 1999 Jan 1;14(2):115-26.


The urine storage ability of the urinary bladder is markedly impaired following inflammation of the urinary bladder and spinal cord injury because of a hyperexcitability of micturition reflexes. Using two rat models of inflammation-induced bladder overactivity and detrusor hyper-reflexia following spinal cord injury we investigated changes in the neuronal pathways to the urinary bladder which may underlie the development of this instability. Our results suggest that among the factors involved in inflammation-induced bladder instability are significant changes in the expression of the neuropeptides substance P, calcitonin gene-related peptide and galanin at the primary afferent level, as well as of the enzyme neuronal nitric oxide synthase (nNOS) at the afferent and postganglionic efferent level. In the lumbar and sacral spinal cord nNOS-immunoreactivity was depleted from dorsal horn neurones in both cystitis and spinal cord injured rats and from preganglionic parasympathetic neurones after spinal cord injury. Distension of the bladder in chronically spinalized rats elicited c-Fos expression in a significantly greater number of neurones throughout the lumbar and sacral segments than in rats with an intact neuraxis. Thus, under pathological conditions rather complicated changes in the synthesis of neuropeptides and nNOS occur at the primary afferent, spinal cord and postganglionic efferent level that together control the activity of the urinary bladder. Further mechanisms like unmasking of silent synapses and axonal sprouting in the spinal cord might further contribute to an increase in activity in micturition reflex pathways. Local cooling of the dorsal spinal cord at the level L6/S1 with temperatures between 14 and 20 °C proved a simple technique to control the unstable bladder and restore continence in both inflammation-induced detrusor overactivity and detrusor hyperreflexia following spinal cord injury. The effects of cooling are probably the result of a blockade of synaptic transmission within the dorsal cord which eliminates neuronal overactivity. Thus, local spinal cord cooling could offer a new method to treat bladder instability and reflex incontinence.