Having an InterStim device implanted often changes a patient’s life – for the better. In many patients, the response is truly dramatic. They can stop taking all bladder control medications – and start enjoying activities like long walks, and travel, again.
The device provides targeted, continual therapy for overactive bladder symptoms, including urinary incontinence, stress incontinence and sudden, uncontrollable urges to urinate. It is a solution for patients for whom medications haven’t worked, or who can’t tolerate the side effects of medications.
InterStim works by providing constant nerve stimulation to the sacral nerves that control bladder muscles. It brings order to the haphazard nerve stimulation that characterizes overactive bladder. The device is implanted – in an outpatient procedure – under the skin near the buttock. Once it’s there, it can’t be seen and in most cases isn’t detectable to light touch. In fact, the patient generally isn’t aware of it. It’s somewhat like clothing – you know it’s there but you’re not really aware of it until you think about it.
The stimulation itself should not be uncomfortable. If it does become uncomfortable, the patient can turn down the level of stimulation with the patient programmer, or have the device re-programmed. And the stimulation will not keep you awake at night.
For most patients, there are few, if any, restrictions on activities, although we do advise patients to avoid sudden, excessive bending, twisting or bouncing, especially immediately after surgery. And it’s a good idea to let your doctor know you have the device implanted before undergoing MRI, ultrasound, electrocardiogram, or heart defibrillator procedures.
After several years, the InterStim battery likely will need to be replaced. One sign that the battery is running down may be a return of symptoms; that’s normal. At that point, make an appointment, and we can change the battery.
Otherwise, the only time a patient should have to give much thought at all to the InterStim device is at the airport. If possible, it’s a good idea to avoid passing through the airport security screening device, because it can cause the neurotransmitter to turn off. If that happens, however, it’s a simple matter to turn it back on, using the hand-held patient programmer. Patients with implanted InterStim devices receive identification cards indicating they have the device. In most cases, airport screening personnel allow anyone who presents that card to bypass the screening device. If not, it’s a good idea to turn off the device, using the patient programmer, before passing through the metal detector. Afterward, turn it back on, and relax and enjoy being able to travel worry-free.
Learn more about overactive bladder.
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David J. Cahn, MD, a board-certified urologist, brings years of experience to complex urological conditions that require surgical intervention. Dr. Cahn is one Colorado’s most experienced minimally invasive surgeons treating overactive bladder, and was among the first in the region to utilize InterStim technology. Dr. Cahn also specializes in advanced prostate cancer. He founded Foothills Urology in 2000 with the goal of providing state-of-the-art treatment in a small, personalized practice. Foothills Urology has since grown to become one of the region’s leading urology practices