FDA approves use of Botox for overactive bladders

February 1, 2013 5:01:12 PM PST
Botox can be used to help smooth out wrinkles, but it also has other uses. A brand new use for Botox is to help people with overactive bladders, a problem for one in four people.

Dr. Chitra Viswanathan is a radiologist who specializes in finding cancer. But she herself is a patient. She broke her neck in a fall and is paralyzed, but she also faced another frustrating problem -- incontinence.

"For anybody who has an accident, it's no problem but given the fact I can't just jump up and change my clothing, it's a little bit more problematic," Dr. Viswanathan said.

But she has gotten relief from an odd source -- Botox shots.

"You know it's used for the face and everything but the idea of using it for the bladder just seems a little out of this world, right?" Dr. Viswanathan said.

She gets tiny Botox shots in the wall of her bladder. Dr. Timothy Boone has been testing Botox for incontinence for seven years. He often does it in the operating room when patients have complicated spinal problems. But now it's been FDA approved for anyone who needs it, and it can be done in a doctor's office.

"It stops the overactive bladder so the purpose of Botox is to block the muscle contraction that happens in the bladder that causes incontinence," Dr. Boone said.

Some two-dozen Botox shots are given through a catheter under local anesthesia. The improvement lasts six to nine months but costs about $2,000.

Dr. Boone said about 3 million Americans might benefit from this newly approved procedure. He said early studies show that about half the patients had complete control over their incontinence, and 80 percent had major improvement.

"People are amazed at what Botox does cosmetically, and we're just as amazed at what it does for overactivity of the bladder," Dr. Boone said.

"If you're constantly trying to run to the bathroom, it's an aspect of life you don't want to have to think about all the time," Dr. Viswanathan said.

Dr. Boone has used the Botox shots to help people with spinal chord injuries, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson's disease. He's glad to see it FDA-approved for all patients who need it.

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