Mapping the current flow in sacral nerve stimulation using computational modelling
Vaizey, Carolynne J
Sacral nerve stimulation (SNS) is an established treatment for faecal incontinence involving the implantation of a quadripolar electrode into a sacral foramen, through which an electrical stimulus is applied. Little is known about the induced spread of electric current around the SNS electrode and its effect on adjacent tissues, which limits optimisation of this treatment. The authors constructed a 3-dimensional imaging based finite element model in order to calculate and visualise the stimulation induced current and coupled this to biophysical models of nerve fibres. They investigated the impact of tissue inhomogeneity, electrode model choice and contact configuration and found a number of effects. (i) The presence of anatomical detail changes the estimate of stimulation effects in size and shape. (ii) The difference between the two models of electrodes is minimal for electrode contacts of the same length. (iii) Surprisingly, in this arrangement of electrode and neural fibre, monopolar and bipolar stimulation induce a similar effect. (iv) Interestingly when the active contact is larger, the volume of tissue activated reduces. This work establishes a protocol to better understand both therapeutic and adverse stimulation effects and in the future will enable patient-specific adjustments of stimulation parameters.