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Anticholinergic drugs versus non-drug active therapies for overactive bladder syndrome in adults.

BACKGROUND: Overactive Bladder Syndrome (OAB) is defined as urgency, with or without urgency incontinence, usually with frequency and nocturia. Pharmacotherapy with anticholinergic drugs is often the first line medical therapy, either alone or as an adjunct to various non-pharmacological therapies. The commonest non-pharmacologic therapies are: bladder training, pelvic floor muscle training with or without biofeedback and electric stimulation to affect detrusor muscle activity.

OBJECTIVES: To compare the effects of various anticholinergic drugs with various non-pharmacologic therapies for idiopathic overactive bladder syndrome in adults.

SEARCH STRATEGY: We searched the Cochrane Incontinence Group Specialised Register (searched 29 November 2005), The Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL), MEDLINE (January 1966 to September 2004), PREMEDLINE, Dissertation Abstracts and the reference lists of relevant articles.

SELECTION CRITERIA: All randomised, or quasi-randomised, controlled trials of treatment with anticholinergic drugs for overactive bladder syndrome or urge urinary incontinence in adults, in which at least one management arm involved a non-drug new therapy. Trials amongst patients with neuropathic bladder dysfunction were excluded.

DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: Two authors evaluated the trials for appropriateness for inclusion and methodological quality. Three authors were involved in the data extraction. Data extracted was based on predetermined criteria. Data analysis was based on standard statistical approaches used in Cochrane reviews.

MAIN RESULTS: Thirteen trials with 1770 participants were included; all were designed as parallel groups except for one cross-over trial. Trial groups were well matched for baseline characteristics in all trials. Treatment duration was 3 to 12 weeks, with one trial carrying out a follow-up analysis at 24 weeks after starting treatment. During treatment, symptomatic improvement was more common amongst those on anticholinergic drugs compared with bladder training (RR 0.73; 95% CI 0.59 to 0.90). Combination of anticholinergics with bladder training was also associated with more improvement than bladder training alone but with wide confidence intervals (RR 0.55; 95% 0.32 to 0.93). Similarly, the limited data favoured a combination of anticholinergics with bladder training compared with anticholinergics during treatment but the difference was not statistically significant (RR for improvement 0.81; 95% CI 0.61 to 1.06). For all comparisons, there were too few data to compare symptoms after treatment had ended. Adverse effects, such as dry mouth, were reported by around a third of those taking anticholinergics.

AUTHORS' CONCLUSIONS: The use of anticholinergic drugs in the management of OAB is well established. During initial treatment there was more symptomatic improvement when (a) anticholinergics were compared with bladder training alone, and (b) anticholinergics combined with bladder training were compared with each modality alone. Anticholinergics have well recognised side effects, such as dry mouth. There were too few data to assess whether or not effects are sustained after stopping treatment.

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