How Does Interstim® Therapy for Overactive Bladder Work?

Posted by David J. Cahn, MD on July 20, 2016 at 4:19 PM

Interstim therapy for OABIf conventional therapies for overactive bladder have not worked for you, and your bladder is still ruling your life, it might be time to consider InterStim therapy.

Overactive bladder symptoms—which include urinary incontinence, stress incontinence, frequent and urgent need to urinate, as well as problems emptying the bladder ---are treatable. Medications for overactive bladder generally work, but they are not targeted, and they have side effects, such as dry mouth, blurry vision, foggy thinking, and constipation.

InterStim, however, is targeted therapy. It is a nerve stimulator, like a pacemaker, about the size of a silver dollar, that is implanted under the skin. A thin wire carries mild electrical pulses to the sacral nerves, which control the pelvic floor, including the bowel and the bladder. A hand-held patient programmer allows individuals to adjust the strength of the stimulation and to turn the system on or off.

InterStim therapy brings order to the haphazard nerve sti
mulation that characterizes overactive bladder. I describe it as a metronome in a storm.

Before it is permanently implanted, the InterStim device is tested on a patient. The patient wears it a couple of days, which allows us to gauge its effectiveness and determine if it’s a good treatment for that individual. Most importantly, it gives the patient an idea of what to expect.

The device’s effect is apparent immediately, and patients are sometimes amazed to get so much symptom relief so quickly. I have implanted hundreds of the devices and many times I have had to talk patients into trying out the system. And often the results are so dramatic during the tryout that they talk me into implanting it permanently.

If the patient and the InterStim are a good match, the device can be implanted during outpatient surgery, with a local anesthesia. It requires only a small incision in the lower back, in order to insert an electrode next to the sacral nerves. The neurostimulator sends the electrical pulses through this thin wire to your sacral nerves.

If the result is good, the patient can stop taking all bladder control medications, and then will require only a checkup once a year to make sure everything is working well.

Read more about overactive bladder symptoms and treatments.

Download a Roadmap to Solving Your Bladder Problems [Infographic].


Dr._Cahn.jpgDavid 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

Tags: Overactive Bladder, InterStim therapy

David J. Cahn, MD