Using Abdominal Functional Electrical Stimulation to improve bowel function in Multiple Sclerosis

There are currently over 20,000 people living with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) in Australia. Bowel and bladder problems, mainly in the form of constipation and urinary incontinence, affect more than half of these people. These problems have traditionally been managed using a combination of manual and pharmacological interventions. However, such solutions are usually only partially effective. Therefore, a non-invasive method of improving bowel and bladder function for people with MS is urgently needed.

The abdominal muscles play a major role during defecation and urination. Surface electrical stimulation of the abdominal muscles, termed Abdominal Functional Electrical Stimulation (Abdominal FES), has been shown to improve bowel function after spinal cord injury, with a case study suggesting this technique may also improve bowel function in MS. There is also limited evidence that Abdominal FES can improve bladder control.

We are currently undertaking the first significant study to investigate the effectiveness of Abdominal FES to improve the bowel and bladder function of people with MS. By making use of the most advanced motility testing system currently available, we hope to be able to definitively assess whether Abdominal FES could be a useful treatment solution for people with MS.