Some people with Interstitial Cystitis (IC) has found relief with a sacral neuromodulation system or device. There are different companies that have this type of device (for example – InterStim, StimGuard, etc). Currently, Medtronic, Inc. is the leader in this industry.
The neuromodulation therapy device is a reversible therapy used to treat urinary incontinence, frequency and incomplete bladder emptying. An implantable device is used and sends mild electrical pulses to the sacral nerves. Located near the tailbone, the sacral nerves control the bladder and the muscles related to urinary function [healthcare.utah.edu].
The implanted sacral neuromodulation system electrically stimulates the sacral nerve which is thought to normalize neural communication between the bladder and brain.
The neuromodulation device for urinary control is sometimes recommended for the treatment of urinary retention and the symptoms of overactive bladder, including urinary urge incontinence and significant symptoms of urgency-frequency in patients who have failed or could not tolerate more conservative treatments [https://www.medtronic.com].
How does the electrical pulses feel? Stimulation varies from person to person, but most people describe it as a slight “pulling” or “tingling” sensation in the pelvic area. It should not be painful. There is a neurostimulator battery in the device. The neurostimulator battery cannot be recharged. The battery will need to be replaced when it no longer works. Batteries typically lasts five to seven years.
The implantation of the neuromodulation device is typically done in 2 stages. The first procedure (Stage 1) involves placing a small wire into the sacrum (lower back-bone). The wire is placed under your skin in the buttock area and is then connected to another wire that comes out of the skin. This wire is connected to a battery pack that you wear on your belt.
The second procedure (Stage 2) occurs approximately 2 weeks later and is also performed as an outpatient procedure. The pacemaker will be placed under the skin and the wire will be buried under the skin, so nothing will show outside your body. If there is not a significant improvement after the 1st week, then the wire will simply be removed.
A common question is will my insurance cover the pacemaker/device. In the United States, the some of the devices have been FDA-approved since 1997 for urge incontinence and since 1999 for urinary retention and urgency/frequency; however, anyone considering this option should check with their insurance company.
As with any medical device or outpatient procedure, there are risks involved. Remember to do your research, and talk to your doctor before going forward. Just a friendly reminder that I am not a medical professional. My goal is to give you information and let you investigate what you are interested in pursuing.
If you have a bladder neurostimulator, please share your experience in the comments below.