AUSTRALIA’S biggest trial of Botox — a toxin most commonly associated with cosmetic surgery — aims to put an end to the embarrassing bladder weakness experienced by patients with spinal cord injuries.
And trial participants are already hoping the West Australian Government will come to the party and provide funding to allow them to continue receiving the treatment.
Commonly used to smooth out wrinkles, Botox blocks the sensory nerve signals being sent from the bladder, while relaxing the muscle.
Chelsey Wilkinson, who is paralysed from the waist down after a car accident, said her Botox injection, directly into the bladder, had given her more confidence to socialise in public without the threat of losing control of her bladder.
The 28-year-old said that, before the treatment, she had to interrupt her full-time job to visit the bathroom every one or two hours. But things improved dramatically after her injection.
“It’s just an inconvenience having to go to the toilet all the time,” Mrs Wilkinson said. “I like to hold my head high and be as confident as I can in public.
“When I can’t control it or feel like I have a lack of control, I can’t handle that and that’s depressing.”
The trial takes the botulinum toxin back to its original use as a therapeutic muscle relaxant, before Hollywood stars started injecting it to smooth out wrinkles.
Royal Perth Hospital head of urology Jeffrey Thavaseelan said Botox was originally developed in the 1970s as a treatment for people with crossed eyes.
He has already injected 36 people with the toxin as part of the latest trial, with a 90 per cent success rate, and is looking for another 20 people to take part.
He said patients were reporting a massive change in their lives.
“I have patients who are now holding down jobs and have much more confidence,” Dr Thavaseelan said. “It has started with spinal cord injury patients but there is a huge area that Botox could potentially help.”
Dr Thavaseelan said he began the trial after liaising with a German doctor who had tested the drug in a similar way.
At a cost of $1500 for a treatment that lasts eight to 12 months, Mrs Wilkinson was hopeful she may be able to be injected again soon.
“If I hadn’t known personally what it can do for me, I wouldn’t have been so eager to know when we can get it again,” she said. “It’s just like putting a carrot in front of a donkey — obviously the donkey’s going to run for it.”