Contemporary and emerging drug treatments for urinary incontinence in children

Mitchell R. Humphreys, Yuri E. Reinberg

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

20 Scopus citations


Pediatric incontinence is a bothersome symptom for children and their parents. It can have a profound influence on a child's social and psychologic development and well-being. It is important to understand the different disorders that result in incontinence and also to understand the neural influences and development on urinary control. Urinary leakage can be a functional or organic disorder, with many possible etiologies. The most common group of pediatric patients with incontinence are those with overactive bladder disorder. Pharmacologic therapy centers on the blockage of muscarinic receptors by the tertiary amines such as oxybutynin, tolterodine, trospium chloride, and propiverine. Although most novel anticholinergic medications are effective and well tolerated in children, in our experience oxybutynin extended release provides superior relief for urge urinary incontinence in children. Other agents such as α-adrenoceptor antagonists have been used with success to improve bladder empyting and decrease outlet resistance. Night-time voiding disorders such as primary monosymptomatic nocturnal enuresis tend to be symptomatically treated. One of the mainstays of pharmacotherapy is desmopressin, an analog to antidiuretic hormone, which decreases night-time urine production. Tricyclic antidepressants such as imipramine have also been used successfully through a combined mechanism of action believed to be the result of anticholinergic, antispasmodic, and sympathomimetic effects. Often the successful treatment of constipation also treats urinary incontinence or at least the symptoms of urinary leakage are improved. The new non-absorbable, tasteless, and odorless PEG-3350 (polyethylene glycol 3350) powder has quickly become a mainstay of the pharmacologic treatment for constipation because of its ease of preparation and favorable adverse effect profile. A better understanding of the physiologic control, cellular interactions, and second messenger signal transduction pathways has led to the development of many new potential target sites for pharmacologic intervention. The advancement of new uroselective muscarinic antagonists is currently under investigation for agents such as darifenacin and temiverine, which have the potential to improve efficacy without increasing unwanted adverse effects. New pharmacologic delivery systems are also being developed ranging from intravesical to transdermal applications to change biodistribution and improve selectivity. Incontinence is a significant problem for children, their parents, and their physicians. The changing and advancing field of pharmacotherapy has made big strides for symptom control in this patient population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)151-162
Number of pages12
JournalPediatric Drugs
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 1 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Pharmacology (medical)

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