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Near-Infrared Spectroscopy for Bladder Monitoring: A Machine Learning Approach

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Dr. Jannik Lockl and Pascal Fechner have published a groundbreaking scientific paper on the development and successful testing of an innovative alternative to conventional catheterization. The focus of this research was to develop a model for individualized bladder volume monitoring that could potentially significantly improve the lives of millions of patients.

Patients living with neurogenic bladder dysfunction have no sense of their bladder or how full it is. To avoid over-distension of the urinary bladder and prevent long-term damage to the urinary tract, the gold standard treatment is clean intermittent catheterization at predefined time intervals. However, the emptying schedule does not consider actual bladder volume, meaning that catheterization is performed more often than necessary, which can lead to complications such as urinary tract infections. Time-consuming catheterization also interferes with patients’ daily routines and, in the case of an empty bladder, uses human and material resources unnecessarily.

As part of the design science research process, the newly developed model was thoroughly evaluated for its applicability and usefulness through interviews with affected patients, prototyping, and application to a real-world in vivo dataset. Using the collected sensor data (i.e., near-infrared spectroscopy and acceleration), the authors were able to predict the bladder volume with an accuracy of 116.7 ml (mean absolute error) using the prototype. The promising results demonstrate the enormous potential of the technology to significantly improve the bladder management for patients. The ability to monitor bladder volume in real time not only vastly improves a patient’s quality of life but can also help reduce the need for invasive catheterization, thereby reducing the use of medical aids and assistance from healthcare professionals.

This research by Dr. Jannik Lockl and Pascal Fechner opens up new perspectives for the care and support of people with neurogenic bladder dysfunction and shows how innovative technologies can improve healthcare.

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