Overactive bladder (OAB) is a common condition affecting people of all ages. It is estimated that over 33 million Americans suffer from OAB every year. This condition can leave individuals feeling embarrassed about talking to their doctor about their symptoms; however, with the help of a urologist, OAB is highly treatable. There are a variety of treatment options one can choose to relieve symptoms of OAB, and thanks to a state-of-the-art implant, millions of people are finding long-term relief.
Common Treatment Options for OAB
Treatment for OAB is assessed on a case by case basis to meet the unique needs of each patient. Common home remedies include bladder training, Kegel exercises to strengthen bladder muscles, and weight management. For more severe cases, there is a more effective option, however. Here is what you should know about the InterStim system.
What is InterStim Therapy?
InterStim therapy is a form of treatment that helps those suffering from frequent urges and urge incontinence to control their overactive bladder symptoms. This therapy works to target the sacral nerves, which are the nerves responsible for urinary function. When these nerves are not communicating with the brain properly, the bladder receives mixed signals and cannot function correctly. InterStim works to help the brain and sacral nerves work together again, which results in the symptoms of OAB subsiding or becoming manageable. InterStim, which is a small implant placed near the tailbone, achieves this by sending mild electrical pulses to the sacral nerves.
The InterStim Therapy system was created by Medtronic, the largest provider of medical devices in the world. Medtronic’s unique expertise in electrical stimulation has led to wearable devices used to treat conditions of the heart, urinary system and much more.
What to Expect During the Procedure
Once you and your urologist have agreed that InterStim should be considered for the treatment of your OAB, test stimulation will be offered. Test stimulation allows you to try InterStim for up to one week to see if the nerve stimulation will be effective before undergoing the surgery. Before the trial, you will have an appointment with the surgeon. In the appointment, the surgeon will perform a physical exam, as well as review your bladder diary, and discuss your medical history.
When it is time for the test stimulation procedure, you will be offered medication to help you relax, then the test stimulator will be inserted near the tailbone. Unlike the InterStim device, this device is worn on the outside of the body and will need to be attached to a waistband. Because it is important to be sure the device is connected to the corrected nerves, the surgeon may ask you if you are feeling a vibrating sensation similar to the urge to urinate. X-Rays will also be taken to be sure everything is in the right place. Antibiotics and pain medication will be prescribed after the procedure.
During the trial period, it is important to continue keeping a bladder diary, so you can compare your progress and see if the stimulator is improving the condition. Once 4 to 7 days with the stimulator have passed, it is time to visit the urologist again to discuss if the InterStim is right for you.
After the trial is over and it has been decided that an InterStim device is right for you, you will undergo a minimally invasive, outpatient procedure similar to the trial stimulation surgery. The InterStim device will then begin delivering mild electrical pulses to the sacral nerves and help manage OAB symptoms.
How to Control InterStim After the Procedure
After the InterStim device has been implanted, it can be controlled via a wireless controller or even through a smartphone app. These controls allow you to turn the stimulation up or down within the parameters set by your urologist. This control even allows you to turn the system completely off if you choose. With the InterStim, expect follow up appointments and checkups to occur every 6 to 12 months.
InterStim Yields Successful Results
The InterStim has been proven to provide short and long-term relief for OAB. So far, 225,000 patients have received relief thanks to the InterStim system. In fact, 85 percent of InterStim patients achieved successful relief from OAB symptoms within the first year. The InterStim system has also seen three times greater improvement than achieved by oral medications for OAB. InterStim is also the only therapy that allows patients to test the effectiveness of the device before undergoing the implant surgery.
A recent study also shows how the InterStim device works over a longer period of time. The study focused on female patients at one hospital who began InterStim therapy between 2004 and 2016. The research revealed that InterStim continued to have a positive effect on the women’s OAB over the course of many years without notable side effects. And since the device can be turned off, women who became pregnant or developed other conditions were able to easily switch off the device when needed. The study concluded that the InterStim is a safe and effective treatment option for those with significant overactive bladder symptoms.
Who Needs InterStim Therapy?
Due to the nature of the device, InterStim therapy is typically reserved for severe cases of OAB that have not responded well to other treatment types. Those who have suffered from significant OAB symptoms or non-obstructive urinary retention for an extended period of time are often good candidates for the InterStim treatment. Individuals with OAB who have tried all other options, including lifestyle changes, oral medications, and other therapies should consider InterStim therapy.