Millions of patients with incontinence caused by an overactive bladder can now use a new wireless device that could solve the embarrassing condition at the click of a button - without drugs, needles or surgery.
The VERV system, which involves a small patch placed on the lower back and a remote control, is the first device to halt the symptoms of overactive bladder (OAB) syndrome from outside the body via the wireless technology.
The condition, which occurs when the bladder muscles contract suddenly or when the bladder is not full, causes sufferers to pass small amounts of urine before they can reach a toilet, or feel a frequent and urgent desire to urinate.
Using VERV, patients can send high frequency signals from the patch through the skin to stimulate the nerves at the base of the spine and control their bladder contractions.
The system's use is being pioneered at the Princess Anne Hospital in Southampton in a successful clinical trial that was described as a "breakthrough moment".
"Between three and six million people in the UK are affected by incontinence and many treatment options are either unsuccessful, such as pelvic floor exercises, behavioural therapy and medications, or involve surgical intervention with its associated risks," said Ash Monga, a consultant urogynaecologist at the Princess Anne Hospital.
"Now, for the first time, patients have a non-surgical, drug-free, discreet and effective option which allows them to get their lives back without having to face an operating theatre or make regular trips for hospital treatment."
The waterproof patch, which is self-applied using a placement tool, is worn continuously for seven days before being replaced and enables users to continue with normal activities, including swimming, showering and general exercise.
Mr Monga explained: "Not only does the patch allow people to get on with their daily lives without the worry of incontinence, once they have been instructed on how to fit and use the system, they are put in full control."
Results of a four-week clinical trial with 64 patients, presented at the International Continence Society, showed that 63% of patients achieved at least a 50% reduction in incontinence, while around the same number (66%) reported better quality of life.
"These initial results are extremely promising and we are now launching VERV as a pilot to ensure the manufacturer is able to provide the appropriate level of care and support to patients using the therapy," added Mr Monga, who has been working on the development in collaboration with engineers for eight years.
"This device could improve the quality of life for millions of people while also removing the disappointment that comes with unsuccessful treatments and the fear associated with invasive procedures - it is a breakthrough moment."