Model-based analysis and design of nerve cuff electrodes for restoring bladder function by selective stimulation of the pudendal nerve.
Electrical stimulation of the pudendal nerve (PN) is being developed as a means to restore bladder function in persons with spinal cord injury. A single nerve cuff electrode placed on the proximal PN trunk may enable selective stimulation of distinct fascicles to maintain continence or evoke micturition. The objective of this study was to design a nerve cuff that enabled selective stimulation of the PN.
We evaluated the performance of both flat interface nerve electrode (FINE) cuff and round cuff designs, with a range of FINE cuff heights and number of contacts, as well as multiple contact orientations. This analysis was performed using a computational model, in which the nerve and fascicle cross-sectional positions from five human PN trunks were systematically reshaped within the nerve cuff. These cross-sections were used to create finite element models, with electric potentials calculated and applied to a cable model of a myelinated axon to evaluate stimulation selectivity for different PN targets. Subsequently, the model was coupled to a genetic algorithm (GA) to identify solutions that used multiple contact activation to maximize selectivity and minimize total stimulation voltage.
Simulations did not identify any significant differences in selectivity between FINE and round cuffs, although the latter required smaller stimulation voltages for target activation due to preserved localization of targeted fascicle groups. Further, it was found that a ten contact nerve cuff generated sufficient selectivity for all PN targets, with the degree of selectivity dependent on the relative position of the target within the nerve. The GA identified solutions that increased fitness by 0.7-45.5% over single contact activation by decreasing stimulation of non-targeted fascicles.
This study suggests that using an optimal nerve cuff design and multiple contact activation could enable selective stimulation of the human PN trunk for restoration of bladder function.
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