Pelvic floor muscle reflex activity during coughing - an exploratory and reliability study.

Activities that provoke stress urinary incontinence (SUI) rapidly increase the intra-abdominal pressure and the impact loading on the pelvic floor muscles (PFMs). Coughing can cause urinary leakage and is often used to test SUI. However, PFM characteristics during coughing, including their reliability, have not been investigated. Here, we used electromyography (EMG) to describe PFM pre-activity and reflexivity during coughing and examined the reliability of the measurements.

This was an exploratory and reliability study including 11 young healthy women to characterize EMG reflex activity in PFMs during coughing. We describe 6 variables, averaged over 3 coughs per subject, and tested their reliability (intraclass correlation coefficient 3,1 [ICC(3,1)] and ICC(3,k), related standard error of measurement (SEM) and minimal difference [MD]). The variables represented the mean EMG activity for PFMs during 30-ms time intervals of pre-activity (initial time point of coughing [T0] and minus 30ms) and reflex activity (T0-30, 30-60, 60-90, 90-120 and 120-150ms after T0) of stretch-reflex latency responses.

The mean %EMG (normalized to maximal voluntary PFM contraction) for EMG variables was 35.1 to 52.2 and was significantly higher during coughing than for PFM activity at rest (mean 24.9±3.7%EMG; P<0.05). ICC(3,k) ranged from 0.67 to 0.91 (SEM 6.1-13.3%EMG and MD 16.7-36.8%EMG) and was higher than ICC(3,1) (range 0.40-0.77; SEM 9.0-18.0%EMG, MD 24.9-50.0%EMG).

PFM activity during reflex latency response time intervals during coughing was significantly higher than at rest, which suggests PFM pre-activity and reflex activity during coughing. Although we standardized coughing, EMG variables for PFM activity showed poor reliability [good to excellent ICC(3,k) and fair to excellent ICC(3,1) but high SEM and MD]. Therefore, coughing is expected to be heterogeneous, with low reliability, in clinical test situations. Potential crosstalk from other muscles involved in coughing could limit the interpretation of our results.

Annals of physical and rehabilitation medicine. 2016 Jun 02 [Epub ahead of print]

Helena Luginbuehl, Jean-Pierre Baeyens, Annette Kuhn, Regula Christen, Bettina Oberli, Patric Eichelberger, Lorenz Radlinger

Bern University of Applied Sciences, Health, Discipline of Physiotherapy, Murtenstrasse 10, 3008 Bern, Switzerland; Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Faculty of Physical Education and Physiotherapy, Pleinlaan 2, 1050 Elsene, Belgium. Electronic address: ., Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Faculty of Physical Education and Physiotherapy, Pleinlaan 2, 1050 Elsene, Belgium., Department of Gynecology, Division of Urogynecology, Inselspital and University of Bern, Effingerstrasse 102, Switzerland., Bern University of Applied Sciences, Health, Discipline of Physiotherapy, Murtenstrasse 10, 3008 Bern, Switzerland., Bern University of Applied Sciences, Health, Discipline of Physiotherapy, Murtenstrasse 10, 3008 Bern, Switzerland., Bern University of Applied Sciences, Health, Discipline of Physiotherapy, Murtenstrasse 10, 3008 Bern, Switzerland., Bern University of Applied Sciences, Health, Discipline of Physiotherapy, Murtenstrasse 10, 3008 Bern, Switzerland.

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