Mapping and neuromodulation of lower urinary tract function using spinal cord stimulation in female rats

Exp Neurol. 2018 Jul;305:26-32. doi: 10.1016/j.expneurol.2018.03.007. Epub 2018 Mar 9.


Spinal cord epidural stimulation (SCS) represents a form of neuromodulation for the management of spasticity and pain. This technology has recently emerged as a new approach for potentially augmenting locomotion and voiding function in humans and rodents after spinal cord injury. However, the effect of SCS on micturition has not been studied extensively. Here, SCS was first applied as a direct stimulus onto individual segmental levels of the lumbar spinal cord in rats to map evoked external urethral sphincter (EUS) electromyography activity and SCS-induced voiding contractions. SCS of L2-3 inhibited EUS tonic activity, and SCS on L3 (L3/SCS) inhibited EUS tonic activity and elicited EUS bursting. In contrast, SCS of L1 and L4-6 evoked EUS tonic contractions, which resembled the urethral guarding reflex during bladder storage. Next, the effects of a bilateral pelvic nerve crush (PNC) injury on urodynamic function were examined at 14 days post-operatively. The PNC injury resulted in decreased voiding efficiency and maximum intravesical pressure, whereas the post-voiding residual volume was increased, suggestive of an underactive bladder. Finally, L3/SCS was performed to induce a voiding contraction and enable voiding in rats with a PNC injury. Voiding efficiency was significantly increased, and the residual volume was decreased by L3/SCS in rats after the PNC injury. We conclude that L3/SCS may be used to induce micturition reflexes in a partially filled bladder, reduce urethral resistance, and augment bladder emptying after PNC injury.

Keywords: Electromyography; External urethral sphincter; Pelvic nerve; Underactive bladder.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Female
  • Lumbar Vertebrae / innervation
  • Lumbar Vertebrae / physiology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Spinal Cord / physiology*
  • Spinal Cord Stimulation / methods*
  • Transcutaneous Electric Nerve Stimulation / methods*
  • Urethra / innervation
  • Urethra / physiology*
  • Urinary Bladder / innervation
  • Urinary Bladder / physiology*
  • Urination / physiology*