Alarm interventions for nocturnal enuresis in children

C M Glazener, J H Evans
Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2001, (1): CD002911

BACKGROUND: Enuresis (bedwetting) is a socially disruptive and stressful condition which affects around 15-20% of five year olds, and up to 2% of young adults. Although there is a high rate of spontaneous remission, the social, emotional and psychological costs to the children can be great.

OBJECTIVES: To assess the effects of alarm interventions on nocturnal enuresis in children, and to compare alarms with other interventions.

SEARCH STRATEGY: The following electronic databases were searched: MEDLINE to June 1997; AMED; ASSIA; BIDS; BIOSIS Previews (1985-1996); CINAHL; DHSS Data; EMBASE (1974 to June 1997); PsycLIT and SIGLE. Organisations, manufacturers, researchers and health professionals concerned with enuresis were contacted for information. The reference sections of obtained studies were also checked for further trials. Date of the most recent search: July 1997.

SELECTION CRITERIA: All randomised trials of alarm interventions for nocturnal enuresis in children were included in the review. Trials were eligible for inclusion if: children were randomised to alarm treatment compared with controls, other behavioural methods or drugs for nocturnal bedwetting; participants with organic causes for their bedwetting were excluded; and baseline assessments of the level of bedwetting were reported. Trials focused solely on daytime wetting were excluded.

DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: Two reviewers independently assessed the quality of the eligible trials, and extracted data.

MAIN RESULTS: Twenty two randomised trials met the inclusion criteria, involving 1125 children who received treatment with alarms. The quality of many of the trials was poor, and many comparisons were addressed only by single trials. Children treated with alarms were significantly more likely than untreated controls to become dry during treatment (RR for failing to achieve 14 dry nights 0.27, 95% CI 0.19 to 0.39) and failing to remain dry (RR 0.58, 95%CI 0.46 to 0.74). There was insufficient evidence to judge whether one type of alarm is better than another and whether alarms alone were as good as or better than other behavioural interventions alone or as a supplement to alarm treatment. Desmopressin or tricyclics seem as effective as alarms while on treatment. There was limited evidence to suggest that the relapse rate might be lower after stopping alarm treatment than after desmopressin (RR 0.11, 95% CI 0.02 to 0.78).

REVIEWER'S CONCLUSIONS: Alarm interventions are an effective treatment for nocturnal bedwetting in children. Desmopressin and tricyclics appeared as effective while on treatment, but this effect was not sustained after treatment stopped, and alarms may be more effective in the long term. Comparisons between drug and behavioural treatments are needed, and should include relapse rates after treatment is finished.

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