A small, surgically implanted device is offering hope for some of the 33 million Americans who suffer from bladder control problems.
Rush University Medical Center is using a procedure known as InterStim therapy to help patients who haven't found relief from medications, physical therapy and other options.
The InterStim device works by electrically stimulating the sacral nerve, which influences the bladder and surrounding muscles that manage urinary function. That stimulation may eliminate or reduce certain bladder control symptoms.
"This is for patients who cannot have a normal life because of frequent trips to the bathroom," says Lev Elterman, MD, urologist in the Program for Abdominal and Pelvic Health at Rush University Medical Center. "It is the last resort for patients who have tried everything else, like medication and pelvic floor physical therapy, and have not had success."
Surgery is performed on an outpatient basis, and the InterStim therapy is reversible. Doctors and patients can gauge its effectiveness through a test stimulation before implanting the entire system.
Elterman describes the system as "essentially a pacemaker for the bladder."
"The electrode stimulates the nerve to the bladder with an electrical pulse. That pulse interrupts the signal to the brain that was making the patient feel urgency and in turn it stops the bladder from squeezing."
In one case, a 19-year-old woman had constant symptoms of a urinary tract infection, including a burning sensation, bleeding, cold sweats and pain in her back. Elterman recommended InterStim Therapy.
"Before I had the stimulator, I was going to the bathroom 18 to 20 times a day," she says. "Now, I'm just going four. It calms the bladder and helps it to relax. And now I can definitely go out a lot more and do more things, like going to a movie."
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Please note: All physicians featured in Discover Rush Online are on the medical faculty of Rush University Medical Center. Some of the physicians featured are in private practice and, as independent practitioners, are not agents or employees of Rush University Medical Center.
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