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A New Device For A Chronic Bladder Problem

The LiRIS device delivers (at left 200 mg and at right 650 mg) lidocaine directly to the bladder for pain relief. Image courtesy of Science Translational Medicine/AAAS

By Karen Weintraub
Guest Contributor

The pain of interstitial cystitis can be as unrelenting as the urge to urinate. Some women go 50-60 times a day – and night. They often feel isolated by their symptoms, and misunderstood by their doctors.

The chronic bladder problem, affecting about 300,000 Americans, is known to be tough to treat. It’s unclear what causes flare-ups, with different triggers in different women. (Men can get interstitial cystitis, too, as can children, but it’s much rarer.) It may take years for a woman to get a diagnosis – for a doctor to believe that it’s not just “all in her head” – and years more to find a treatment that works at least some of the time.

“It is a very complicated disease and these patients are in very tough shape,” said Michael Cima, the David H. Koch professor of engineering at MIT. “There’s a real medical need.”

That’s why Cima, along with a company he cofounded, has developed a device to deliver the painkiller lidocaine inside the bladder, for as long as two weeks. Other similar devices are either so large that they cause pain, he says, or so small that they slip out of the bladder when the person goes to the bathroom.

Cima’s device, published in the current issue of Science Translational Medicine, unfurls once placed inside the bladder into a pretzel shape, so it stays put until removed by a doctor.

“This is the first time anybody’s developed a continuous release of anything in the bladder,” he says. “While other people have tried to do this, they weren’t tolerated and ours was.” Continue reading