InterStim Therapy for Bladder Control Problems in Women

InterStim Therapy for Bladder Control Problems in Women with woman holding her bladder next to a toilet

Discussing bladder control problems with friends, family, and physicians can make most people feel uncomfortable. Worrying about bladder control can keep some people from enjoying activities they love. More than 33 million Americans deal with overactive bladder (OAB), sometimes referred to as urge incontinence. A minimally invasive procedure called InterStim therapy is a treatment option available for OAB if other non-surgical options have not worked.

First, we will discuss bladder control signs and symptoms, then conservative treatments to try, and finally discuss Interstim therapy as an option to treat bladder control problems.

Symptoms of Bladder Control Problems

  • Frequent urges to urinate (urgency-frequency)
  • Inability to hold urine/leaking (urge incontinence)
  • Inability to urinate (complete urinary retention)
  • Incomplete bladder emptying (partial urinary retention)

Conservative Treatments for Bladder Control Problems

Conservative or non-surgical treatments for bladder control problems typically come first. Some of the conservative treatment options are:

  • Kegel exercises
  • Medications
  • Physical therapy
  • Dietary and lifestyle changes

If these conservative, non-surgical treatments have not effectively treated the bladder control problems, your physician may discuss InterStim Therapy with you as an option.

What is InterStim Therapy?

InterStim Therapy, also known as sacral nerve stimulation or sacral neuromodulation, is an FDA-approved treatment for several different bladder control problems, most often for women. This therapy is completely reversible and uses a small implantable device to send mild electrical pulses to stimulate the sacral nerves. These nerves are located near the spinal cord and just above the tailbone and control the pelvic floor, urinary and anal sphincters, lower urinary tract, and colon.

InterStim Therapy can be used to treat the following bladder control problems:

  • Overactive bladder (OAB): The sudden, uncontrollable urge to urinate
  • Urinary retention: A feeling of “fullness” with an inability to fully empty the bladder
  • Urinary incontinence: The involuntary leaking of urine due to the loss of bladder control
  • Bowel or Fecal incontinence: Stool unexpectedly leaking from the rectum due to the inability to control bowel movements

InterStim Therapy is not intended to treat issues like stress incontinence or urinary blockages. Also, it is not recommended for pregnant women, those with a pacemaker, or diabetic patients.

How Does InterStim Therapy Work?

The sacral nerves control the bladder and are located near the tailbone. When these nerves do not communicate effectively with the brain, normal bladder function is disrupted. InterStim Therapy provides stimulation to these nerves called neurostimulation to communicate with the brain for increased bladder control. Neurostimulation is a reversible treatment that can be discontinued at any time by turning off or removing the device.

How is the InterStim Therapy Device Inserted?

Before the InterStim Therapy device that generates the electrical pulses is surgically implanted, the patient will have a trial period to ensure the therapy will reduce bladder control symptoms. This is the first phase of the two-phase procedure and typically takes 1 to 3 weeks. This trial period determines if InterStim Therapy is right for you. With both phases of the process, you can go home the same day but need a driver.

The trial phase takes place in a medical office or operating room. The doctor numbs a small area near the tailbone and inserts a thin, flexible needle attached to a wire placed near the sacral nerves. Once the electrical stimulation starts, a comfortable pulsing or tingling sensation is sent to the vagina or rectal regions.

An external battery is then placed on a belt that is connected to the testing wire. A handheld remote control can then adjust the level of desired stimulation. During the first phase, your doctor may ask you to keep a bladder diary to track daily urinary habits. It is essential to abstain from sexual and strenuous activity to ensure the wires stay in place during this time. The incision sites should also remain dry and the wires free from potential entanglement.

The first phase of the procedure allows you to try neurostimulation to see if it is right for you without making a long-term commitment. Suppose your symptoms are significantly reduced or eliminated during the testing period. In that case, you may benefit from long-term use of sacral nerve stimulation, and the second stage of the procedure is performed.  A permanent battery is implanted in the upper part of the buttock and is similar to a heart pacemaker’s size. Most all normal activities can be resumed within two weeks after this surgery.

What Are the Risks of InterStim Therapy?

As with any minimally invasive procedure, there may be risks, which could include:

  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Pain
  • Continued bladder control problems

The good news is that if, for any reason, the InterStim Therapy device can be shut off or completely removed. It is essential to share all health concerns and intentions with your doctor to determine if the device needs to be turned off. For example, if you become pregnant or are trying to become pregnant, the InterStim device would need to be shut off.

For even more information, visit: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2672997/

InterStim Therapy for bladder control problems is not suitable for everyone. There are many alternate options to help manage OAB, urge incontinence, bowel or fecal incontinence, or any other symptom you are experiencing. Personally Delivered carries a wide variety of incontinence products to help with bladder and bowel control. If you need assistance choosing what incontinence products are right for your unique needs, our friendly and knowledgeable Product Experts are here to guide you through the purchasing experience. Give us a call today. You’ll be happy you did!

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