Treating Nocturnal Enuresis in Children: Review of Evidence : Journal of Wound Ostomy & Continence Nursing

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Treating Nocturnal Enuresis in Children

Review of Evidence

Glazener, Cathryn M.A.; Evans, Jonathan H.C.; Peto, Rachel E.

Editor(s): Krissovich, Marta MS, RN, CNS, CCCN

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Journal of Wound, Ostomy and Continence Nursing 31(4):p 223-234, July 2004.



Childhood nocturnal enuresis (bedwetting) affects many families. Although it has a high rate of spontaneous remission, bedwetting may bring social and emotional stigma, stress, and inconvenience to both the child with enuresis and his or her family.


Summary of systematic reviews of treatment for nocturnal enuresis in children, published in the Cochrane Library, using evidence only from randomized and quasi-randomized trials to compare interventions. Interventions included behavioral, alarm, and pharmacologic treatments.


Six Cochrane Reviews contributed evidence to this review: simple behavioral interventions, alarms, complex behavioral or educational interventions, desmopressin, tricyclics and related drugs, and other drugs.


The participants were children (usually up to the age of 16).


Much of the available evidence was of poor quality, and there were few direct comparisons between different types of intervention. Simple behavioral Interventions, such as reward systems, are widely used as standard first-line treatment, but they require a high level of parental involvement. There is currently little evidence to show that these interventions work, but they may be worth trying because they have only a few adverse effects.

The use of an alarm intervention reduced nighttime bed wetting in a majority of children both during and after treatment. Overlearning or dry-bed training may reduce the relapse rate. Before embarking on alarm treatment, families need to be made aware of both the time and the high level of parental involvement necessary to attain success.

Drug therapy, such as desmopressin and tricyclics, reduced the number of wet nights per week compared with placebo but only while the drug was used. Patients and their families need to be warned about possible side effects of some of the drugs.


Alarms are the most effective treatment for nocturnal enuresis in children, but desmopressin may be considered for temporary relief.

Copyright © 2004 by the Wound, Ostomy and Continence Nurses Society

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