A Stimulating Option for Treating an Overactive Bladder
Having an uncontrollable bladder can make life very difficult – always needing to locate a restroom and frequently feeling the urge to go is not something many people would choose. These problems can also be embarrassing for many people to talk about. However, though these conditions can affect quality of life, they can often be remedied with physical therapy or medical treatment. If these treatments are exhausted, a minimally invasive surgical option known as sacral nerve stimulation can provide some relief.
Sacral nerve stimulation is one of several treatment options for overactive bladder, said Jennifer Yeung DO, a urogynecologist with TriHealth Women’s Services who is seeing patients at TriHealth Five Mile | Anderson. An electrical lead is dropped into the sacral area of the lower back, which is where the nerves that contribute to bladder control are located. By stimulating these nerves, the brain and the bladder are better able to communicate, which can often successfully eliminate or reduce bladder-control problems in some people.
Sacral nerve stimulation has been approved by the Food & Drug Administration for adults who struggle with urinary frequency, urge to go, and incontinence, as well as fecal and urinary retention. The therapy is considered as an option only after other types of therapies have been explored, such pelvic physical therapy and medication.
The therapy is divided into two phases. The first phase is designed to test if the treatment will improve the patient’s symptoms. During this phase, a temporary electrical lead is implanted into the back, and stimulation will be applied to the sacral nerves. The patient will then keep a bladder diary for about a week to see if symptoms improve. If they do, a permanent lead and battery will be implanted. The entire system is enclosed in the body, and the battery generally lasts 5-10 years. At that time, the patient will be re-evaluated. If it is determined that the “bladder pacemaker” is still needed, then the battery will be replaced. However, it is possible that the therapy is not needed forever, and the lead and battery can be removed.
The goal of sacral nerve stimulation is to improve patient symptoms by 50 percent – for example, if a patient was using the bathroom 12 times a day, the goal would be to reduce that number to six.
If you feel that you are struggling with urinary incontinence or a similar issue, make an appointment to see your doctor.
Last Updated: March 16, 2018