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Detecting bladder problems early

A new study hopes to prove benefits of telehealth initiatives for bladder management in people with spinal cord injuries


Infographic UTIs 2

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Participants can consult with their specialist via tele-conferencing.

Telehealth is becoming a popular intervention between patients and their physicians as it allows people to monitor their health from the comfort of their own homes. It is an especially valuable option for individuals with spinal cord injury (SCI) who may require regular visits with a specialist. Many of these individuals spend hours preparing to go out to see a physician, travel long distances to make their appointments, or have restricted mobility and accessibility issues. Conducting visits via telehealth makes it easier for people with SCI to meet with their specialists and helps prevent secondary complications from escalating, avoiding potentially life-threatening complications and reducing the burden on the healthcare system.

Funded by the Rick Hansen Institute, a new study is assessing the impact of telehealth in bladder management for individuals with spinal cord injury. Urinary tract infections are a common secondary complication for people with SCI that can diminish their quality of life and lead to emergency room visits for urgent treatment. The Home-based observations and monitoring of events related to urinary tract infections in SCI (HOME-SCI) study, will look at two different technologies and determine whether or not those technologies help individuals monitor their bladder health and catch potential problems before they become more serious.

All participants will participate in weekly telehealth video-conferencing with a research nurse. A sub-group of those participants will have a small wireless device taped to their skin over their bladder. This device, called the Near Infrared Spectroscopy (NIRS), is a non-invasive optical technique that can determine bladder health by using light to monitor blood flow and oxygenation. The NIRS technology was developed by the University of British Columbia researcher, Dr. Andrew Macnab.

The study is officially underway in Vancouver, BC and London, Ontario. In Vancouver, the study is being conducted by researchers Drs. Lynn Stothers, Mark Nigro and Babak Shadgan at the Blusson Spinal Cord Centre. Dr. Blayne Welk is leading the study at St. Joseph’s Healthcare London in Ontario.

Teresa Lim is the study’s research nurse at the Brenda and David McLean Integrated Spine Clinic located in the Blusson Spinal Cord Centre. “What’s great about this study is that it’s easy for people to get involved. After the initial setup is done, the subsequent appointments can be conducted with the participant at home.”

Dr. Stothers added, “Providing solutions for people with SCI to better manage their health is imperative if we want to increase opportunities for these individuals to regain independence and live healthy and fulfilling lives. Urinary tract infections are a serious health concern among people with SCI and we believe that enabling people to be active participants in monitoring their own bladder health, easily and in the comfort of their own home will reduce the incidence rate of this potentially serious complication."

"We hope this study will show that using the NIRS wireless device in a telehealth environment will prove to be an effective method for monitoring bladder health in individuals with spinal cord injury.”

If you are interested in participating in the HOME-SCI study, click here.  

The HOME-SCI study is funded by the Rick Hansen Institute and the Ontario Neurotrauma Foundation and partners include ICORD and Vancouver Coastal Health’s Brenda and David McLean Integrated Spine Clinic.

Support for RHI’s research projects is made possible through contributions from the Government of Canada through Western Economic Diversification Canada, the Rick Hansen Foundation and the governments of Alberta, BC, Manitoba and Ontario.