Introduction and hypothesis: Human menopause transition and post-menopausal syndrome, driven by reduced ovarian activity and estrogen levels, are associated with an increased risk for symptoms including but not limited to sexual dysfunction, metabolic disease, and osteoporosis. Current treatments are limited in efficacy and may have adverse consequences, so investigation for additional treatment options is necessary. Previous studies have demonstrated that percutaneous tibial nerve stimulation (PTNS) and electro-acupuncture near the tibial nerve are minimally invasive treatments that increase vaginal blood perfusion or serum estrogen in the rat model. We hypothesized that PTNS would protect against harmful reproductive and systemic changes associated with menopause.
Methods: We examined the effects of twice-weekly PTNS (0.2 ms pulse width, 20 Hz, 2× motor threshold) under ketamine-xylazine anesthesia in ovariectomized (OVX) female Sprague-Dawley rats on menopause-associated physiological parameters including serum estradiol, body weight, blood glucose, bone health, and vaginal blood perfusion. Rats were split into three groups (n = 10 per group): (1) intact control (no stimulation), (2) OVX control (no stimulation), and (3) OVX stimulation (treatment group).
Results: PTNS did not affect serum estradiol levels, body weight, or blood glucose. PTNS transiently increased vaginal blood perfusion during stimulation for up to 5 weeks after OVX and increased areal bone mineral density and yield load of the right femur (side of stimulation) compared to the unstimulated OVX control.
Conclusions: PTNS may ameliorate some symptoms associated with menopause. Additional studies to elucidate the full potential of PTNS on menopause-associated symptoms under different experimental conditions are warranted.
Keywords: Bone mineral density; Electrical stimulation; Menopause; Neuromodulation; Tibial nerve; Vaginal blood perfusion.
© 2022. The International Urogynecological Association.