Underwear Alerts Incontinence Sufferers to Pad Leaks

BARCELONA—A product known as Smart UnderWear, which is designed to alert patients to potential urinary pad leaks, appears to perform well with good patient acceptability, according to results released at the 43rd Annual Meeting of the International Continence Society.

Adele Long, Senior Researcher in Urology, and Marcus Drake, MD, Consultant Urologist with the Bristol Urological Institute in Bristol, UK, presented findings from 56 middle-aged women who routinely wore pads for urinary incontinence.

The analysis showed that the Smart UnderWear was effective at signaling patients to pad leakage events 87% of the time. In addition, 85% of patients were alerted in time to change their pad before leakage to outside clothing or furnishings.

In 59% of pad leaks, study participants reported that they were not otherwise aware of leakage.

More than 90% of patients said that the use of the product would enhance their confidence about avoiding pad leaks that might occur when they experience urgency with incontinence and/or are unable to access a toilet or when they inadvertently displace the pad during physical activity.

Subjects were recruited from outpatient clinics and the community via patient support networks.

The product consists of wetness sensor threads sewn into a pair of underwear and detects overspills of urine from the pad.  An electronic unit is attached to the underwear and responds to an overspill by vibrating three times when wet, thereby signaling the wearer that the pad has leaked.

The system was developed by Brunel University, University of Manchester, and the Bristol Urological Institute as part of a three-year, UK-based research project called Tackling Ageing Continence Through Theory, Tools, and Technology (TACT3).

Urinary incontinence pads may be highly absorbent and effective for containing urine but may leak for a range of reasons, including high-volume challenge due to uncontrolled full bladder emptying, the use of pads past their absorbency level, and movement of the pad within the fixation pant resulting in uneven absorbency, Dr. Drake explained.

Study participants received five pairs of the underwear and one signaling unit.

They were asked to wear the Smart UnderWear during the day for at least five days a week for two consecutive weeks and were instructed to wash the underwear as often as they wished.

Dr. Drake said that “the ideal candidate for Smart UnderWear system is the patient who wears continence pads in the community, with mild-to-severe incontinence, and who restricts her activity as a result of lack of confidence that the pad will control the leakage.”

He also noted that the system can be used in residential care facilities.

Patients who sweat excessively are not good candidates for the Smart UnderWear because the sweat can be detected by the system and set off the alert even though there has not been any urine leakage.

The system might be useful for men and children but has not yet been tested in these populations, he said.

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