Percutaneous tibial nerve stimulation

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Percutaneous tibial nerve stimulation (PTNS), also referred to as posterior tibial nerve stimulation, is the least invasive form of neuromodulation used to treat overactive bladder (OAB) and the associated symptoms of urinary urgency, urinary frequency and urge incontinence. These urinary symptoms may also occur with interstitial cystitis and following a radical prostatectomy. Outside the United States, PTNS is also used to treat fecal incontinence.

PTNS can be used as a primary therapy. However, treatment for overactive bladder and fecal incontinence begins with conservative therapies including pharmacology. There are a variety of OAB drugs available that generally produce similar overall efficacy and side-effects.[1] Nearly 80% of patients discontinue use (mean of 4.8 months) of drugs within the first year[2] with as high as 17% of discontinuation being due to adverse side-effects.[3] Neuromodulation is emerging as an effective modality to treat patients who are not successful with conservative methods and its demonstrated efficacy has been the topic of multiple publications.[4][5]

Medical uses[edit]

Urinary incontinence[edit]

PTNS appears to be effective at improving the number of times a person needs to urinate who has overactive bladder syndrome.[6] It appears to work as well as medication but to have less side effects.[7]

Fecal incontinence[edit]

A review that looked at mostly low quality studies found tentative evidence of benefit.[8] A more recent high quality study however did not find benefit in fecal incontinence.[9]


A patient sits comfortably with the treatment leg elevated. A fine needle electrode is inserted into the lower, inner aspect of the leg, slightly cephalad/rostral to the medial malleolus. As the goal is to send stimulation through the tibial nerve, it is important to have the needle electrode near (but not on) the tibial nerve. A surface electrode (grounding pad) is placed over the medial aspect of the calcaneus on the same leg. The needle electrode is then connected to an external pulse generator which delivers an adjustable electrical pulse that travels to the sacral plexus via the tibial nerve. Among other functions, the sacral nerve plexus regulates bladder and pelvic floor function.

With correct placement of the needle electrode and level of electrical impulse, there is often an involuntary toe flex or fan, or an extension of the entire foot. However, for some patients, the correct placement and stimulation may only result in a mild sensation in the ankle area or across the sole of the foot.

The treatment protocol requires once-a-week treatments for 12 weeks, 30 minutes per session. Many patients begin to see improvements by the 6th treatment. Patients who respond to treatment may require occasional treatments (~ once every 3 weeks) to sustain improvements.

PTNS is a low-risk procedure. The most common side-effects with PTNS treatment are temporary and minor, resulting from the placement of the needle electrode. They include minor bleeding, mild pain and skin inflammation.[10]

Research and market approval[edit]

The methodology was first invented by Dr. Marshall Stoller at UCSF Medical Center, San Francisco, and was first known as the SANS protocol.

In 2000, Dr. Stoller reported that 98 patients were treated with the SANS device with an approximate 80% success rate in treating urge incontinence syndrome, including urgency and frequency.[11] In a corroborative multi-center study by Govier, et al., 71% of patients achieved success.[12] Additionally, in a study by Shafik, et al., 78% of patients achieved a long-term improvement in faecal incontinence when treated with PTNS.[13]

Regulatory clearances were based on these data. A PTNS device received FDA-clearance for urinary urgency, urinary frequency and urge incontinence in 2000; in 2010, the clearance was updated to include Overactive Bladder (OAB). A PTNS device received the CE mark for urinary urgency, urinary frequency and urge incontinence and fecal incontinence in 2005.

Since 2005, Uroplasty has marketed the Urgent PC Neuromodulation System. In 2015, Medtronic acquired Advanced Uro-Solutions for its PTNS therapy, and began marketing the NURO PTNM System in 2016 [14]

U.S. reimbursement[edit]

Effective January 1, 2011, the PTNS procedure will be billed under the new CPT code 64566,[15] with the descriptor "Posterior tibial neurostimulation, percutaneous needle electrode, single treatment, includes programming."[16]

U.K. NICE guidance[edit]

In October 2010, the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) issued NICE Interventional Procedure Guidance 362[17] supporting the use of Percutaneous Tibial Nerve Stimulation (PTNS) as a routine treatment for Overactive Bladder syndrome. Highlights of the NICE guidance include: Evidence shows that PTNS is effective in reducing symptoms in the short and medium term.

There are no major safety concerns.

It can be offered routinely as a treatment option for people with overactive bladder provided that doctors are sure that the patients understand what is involved and agree to the treatment and that the results of the procedure are monitored.

A NICE guidance for fecal incontinence is currently under review.

Transcutaneous tibial nerve stimulation[edit]

Recent studies have been carried out to demonstrate the efficacy of transcutaneous tibial nerve stimulation with the use of external electrodes. Electrodes are applied near to the ankle where the tibial/sural nerve is located. It is believed that the electrical stimulation can penetrate the skin delivering tibial nerve stimulation in the same way, but without the need for a needle electrode. A study carried out by Glasgow Caledonian University reported that based on 7 case series 48–68% of patients treated via transcutaneous tibial nerve stimulation (external stimulation) saw a marked improvement or cure of their bladder irregularities (varying forms of incontinence). This is in contrast to the 60–80% success rate for treating overactive bladder using the percutaneous method (use of a needle stimulator).[18] The study concludes that transcutaneous tibial nerve stimulation has a positive impact and an overall reduction in bladder weakness symptoms, supporting its use as a first line intervention.

Transcutaneous tibial nerve stimulation is also believed to be an effective treatment for fecal incontinence (FI). In a survey carried out by Gut (an international peer-reviewed journal for health professionals and researchers in gastroenterology and hepatology) it was found that 45% of their subjects receiving transcutaneous PTNS saw more than a 50% reduction in weekly episodes of faecal incontinence.[19]

It is thought that further studies on alternative possible treatments, such as home based transcutaneous stimulation, are needed.[20] However, it has proved a viable and successful treatment for many.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Andersson, KE, Chapple, CR, Cardozo L; et al. (2009). "Pharmacological treatment of overactive bladder: report from the International Consulation on Incontinence". Current Opinion in Urology. 19: 380–394. doi:10.1097/mou.0b013e32832ce8a4. 
  2. ^ Gopal M; Haynes K; Bellamy SL; Arya LA. (2008). "Discontinuation rates of anticholinergic medications used for the treatment of lower urinary tract symptoms.". Obstet Gynecol. 112: 1311–8. doi:10.1097/aog.0b013e31818e8aa4. 
  3. ^ Hartmann KE, McPheeters ML, Biller DH, et al. Treatment of overactive bladder in women. AHRQ Evidence Report/Technology Assessment No. 187. (Prepared by the Vanderbilt Evidence-based Practice Center under Contract No. 290-2007-10065-I). AHRQ Publication No. 09-E017. Accessed Oct 25, 2010 at
  4. ^ Mayer, R. (2010). "Neuromodulation – Who, what, when, where and why.". J Urol. 183: 17–18. doi:10.1016/j.juro.2009.10.053. 
  5. ^ Doggwiler, R. (2010). "Will Posterior Tibial Nerve Stimulation Replace Sacral Nerve Root Stimulation as the Salvage Management of Drug Resistant Urinary Urge Incontinence.". J Urol. 184: 1835–86. doi:10.1016/j.juro.2010.07.012. 
  6. ^ Moossdorff-Steinhauser, HF; Berghmans, B (March 2013). "Effects of percutaneous tibial nerve stimulation on adult patients with overactive bladder syndrome: a systematic review.". Neurourology and urodynamics. 32 (3): 206–14. doi:10.1002/nau.22296. PMID 22907807. 
  7. ^ Burton, C; Sajja, A; Latthe, PM (November 2012). "Effectiveness of percutaneous posterior tibial nerve stimulation for overactive bladder: a systematic review and meta-analysis.". Neurourology and urodynamics. 31 (8): 1206–16. doi:10.1002/nau.22251. PMID 22581511. 
  8. ^ Thomas, GP; Dudding, TC; Rahbour, G; Nicholls, RJ; Vaizey, CJ (May 2013). "A review of posterior tibial nerve stimulation for faecal incontinence.". Colorectal Disease. 15 (5): 519–26. doi:10.1111/codi.12093. PMID 23216902. 
  9. ^ Knowles, CH; Horrocks, EJ; Bremner, SA; Stevens, N; Norton, C; O'Connell, PR; Eldridge, S; CONFIDeNT study, group (17 August 2015). "Percutaneous tibial nerve stimulation versus sham electrical stimulation for the treatment of faecal incontinence in adults (CONFIDeNT): a double-blind, multicentre, pragmatic, parallel-group, randomised controlled trial.". Lancet (London, England). 386: 1640–8. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(15)60314-2. PMID 26293315. 
  10. ^ Govier, F.E., Litwiller, S., Nitti, V., Kreder, K.J., Jr., & Rosenblatt, P. (2001). "Percutaneous afferent neuromodulation for the refractory overactive bladder: Results of a multi-center study". Journal of Urology. 165: 1193–1198. doi:10.1016/s0022-5347(05)66469-5. 
  11. ^ Dr. Marshall Stoller's Guest Lecture On IC Network
  12. ^ Govier, F.E., Litwiller, S., Nitti, V., Kreder, K.J., Jr., & Rosenblatt, P. (2001). "Percutaneous afferent neuromodulation for the refractory overactive bladder: Results of a multi-center study". Journal of Urology. 165: 1193–1198. doi:10.1016/s0022-5347(05)66469-5. 
  13. ^ Shafik, A., Ahmed, I., El-Sibai, O., & Mostafa, R.M. (2003). "Percutaneous peripheral neuromodulation in the treatment of fecal incontinence". Eur Surg Res. 35 (2): 103–107. doi:10.1159/000069399. 
  14. ^
  15. ^ CPT copyright 2009 American Medical Association. All rights reserved. CPT is a registered trademark of the American Medical Association.
  16. ^
  17. ^ National Institute for Clinical Excellence. Percutaneous Posterior Tibial Nerve stimulation for overactive bladder symptoms. Guidance issue date 27 October 2010.
  18. ^ Glasgow Caledonian University: A Pilot Trial of Transcutaneous Posterior Tibial Nerve Stimulation for Bladder and Bowel Dysfunction in Older Adults in Residential Care;;
  19. ^ Gut 2011;60:A157-A158 doi:10.1136/gut.2011.239301.334;
  20. ^ Percutaneous tibial nerve stimulation (PTNS) efficacy in the treatment of lower urinary tract dysfunctions: a systematic review by Gabriele Gaziev, Luca Topazio, Valerio Iacovelli, Anastasios Asimakopoulos, Angela DiSanto, Cosimo De Nunzio, Enrico Finazzi BMC Urology 2013, 13:61 doi:10.1186/1471-2490-13-61;

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