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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Finite element modeling and in vivo analysis of electrode configurations for selective stimulation of pudendal afferent fibers

John P Woock, Paul B Yoo and Warren M Grill*

Author Affiliations

Department of Biomedical Engineering, Duke University, Box 90281, Durham, NC 27708-0281, USA

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BMC Urology 2010, 10:11  doi:10.1186/1471-2490-10-11

Published: 25 May 2010

Abstract

Background

Intraurethral electrical stimulation (IES) of pudendal afferent nerve fibers can evoke both excitatory and inhibitory bladder reflexes in cats. These pudendovesical reflexes are a potential substrate for restoring bladder function in persons with spinal cord injury or other neurological disorders. However, the complex distribution of pudendal afferent fibers along the lower urinary tract presents a challenge when trying to determine the optimal geometry and position of IES electrodes for evoking these reflexes. This study aimed to determine the optimal intraurethral electrode configuration(s) and locations for selectively activating targeted pudendal afferents to aid future preclinical and clinical investigations.

Methods

A finite element model (FEM) of the male cat urethra and surrounding structures was generated to simulate IES with a variety of electrode configurations and locations. The activating functions (AFs) along pudendal afferent branches innervating the cat urethra were determined. Additionally, the thresholds for activation of pudendal afferent branches were measured in α-chloralose anesthetized cats.

Results

Maximum AFs evoked by intraurethral stimulation in the FEM and in vivo threshold intensities were dependent on stimulation location and electrode configuration.

Conclusions

A ring electrode configuration is ideal for IES. Stimulation near the urethral meatus or prostate can activate the pudendal afferent fibers at the lowest intensities, and allowed selective activation of the dorsal penile nerve or cranial sensory nerve, respectively. Electrode location was a more important factor than electrode configuration for determining stimulation threshold intensity and nerve selectivity.