Xiao and colleagues in China reported successful restoration of bladder control in patients with spinal cord injury (SCI) by establishing a somatic-autonomic reflex pathway through lumbar-to-sacral ventral root nerve rerouting. We evaluated long-term results in eight patients who underwent this procedure at a German university clinic between 2005 and 2007. The primary outcome was the occurrence of voiding upon stimulation of the skin, with normalization of bladder pressure when filling, as assessed with videourodynamics at each visit. Videourodynamic variables, urinary tract infections, and bladder/stool events recorded in a patient diary were stored in a prospective database and reviewed retrospectively. Intraoperative testing indicated successful nerve rerouting in all eight patients. Duration of follow-up was 71 mo (range: 56-86). No patient reached the primary goal of voluntary voiding with normalization of detrusor pressure at any point during follow-up. No improvements in videourodynamic or diary variables regarding bladder function were observed. In view of the lack of short (12-18 mo) and long-term (71 mo) success in our patients and others, the risks of any surgical procedure using general anesthesia, and potential for unmet expectations to wreak havoc on patient emotional well-being, we cannot recommend this procedure for patients with SCI.
Although the hope was to improve long-term outcomes of spinal cord injury patients, intraspinal nerve rerouting did not improve or normalize bladder function. In view of the lack of success, we cannot recommend this procedure until proven in clinical studies.
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