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Urology. 2004 Mar;63(3 Suppl 1):17-23.

Management of detrusor dysfunction in the elderly: changes in acetylcholine and adenosine triphosphate release during aging.

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  • 1Department of Urology, Kumamoto University School of Medicine, Honjo, Kumamoto, Japan.


Numerous studies have detailed age-related changes in the structure and function of the bladder that may contribute to the high prevalence of overactive bladder (OAB) in the elderly population, but the relation of these changes to OAB symptoms remains unclear. Physiologic and neurochemical studies have been conducted in human detrusor strips obtained from people of different ages, focusing on potential changes in cholinergic and purinergic neurotransmission, as well as the release and actions of acetylcholine (ACh) from nonneuronal bladder cells. Results from physiologic and microdialysis experiments indicate that purinergic transmission increases with age, whereas cholinergic transmission decreases. These effects are most likely because of decreased release of ACh and increased release of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) from postganglionic parasympathetic axons innervating the bladder. Immunohistochemical experiments showed that choline acetyltransferase in the human detrusor is contained not only in parasympathetic axons, but also in cells of the urothelium. The release of nonneuronal ACh increases with age and detrusor stretch. The age-related increase in purinergic transmission in the detrusor and other data indicating that responses to ATP are increased in detrusor overactivity suggest that purinergic receptor antagonists may provide a useful complement to muscarinic receptor antagonists in the treatment of older patients with OAB. Nonneuronal ACh release may play a key role in the storage phase of the micturition reflex, and this may explain, at least in part, the effectiveness of antimuscarinic agents for the treatment of OAB.

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