InterStim Therapy

What Is InterStim Therapy?

InterStim therapy 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 muscles related to urinary function. If the brain and sacral nerves don’t communicate correctly, the nerves can’t tell the bladder to function properly.

This communication problem can lead to symptoms of overactive bladder.

What Are The Advantages of InterStim Therapy?

InterStim Therapy is a reversible therapy that uses an implantable device to send mild electrical pulses to stimulate the sacral nerves. Those nerves control the muscles of the pelvic floor, urinary and anal sphincters, lower urinary tract and colon. The sacral nerves are located just above the tailbone, near the spinal cord.

InterStim Therapy is used to treat the following conditions:

  • Urinary incontinence: the involuntary leaking of urine due to the loss of bladder control
  • Overactive bladder (OAB): the sudden urge to urinate that cannot be controlled
  • Urinary retention: the inability to empty the bladder; patients will often feel full but cannot urinate or only release a small amount of urine
  • Fecal incontinence: the inability to control bowel movements causing stool to leak unexpectedly from the rectum.

InterStim Therapy is available for patients, most often women, who have not had success with more conservative options like Kegels, pessaries and physical therapy. InterStim is not intended for patients with stress incontinence, urinary blockage, pregnant women, patients with a pacemaker or diabetic patients.

Your health care provider can help make this decision and may recommend that you try InterStim Therapy temporarily to see if it helps your symptoms. This is called test stimulation. Interstim is only offered to patients who have tried medications and behavioral changes and have not responded well or can’t tolerate these treatments.

What Are The Risks of InterStim Therapy?

As with any minimally invasive procedure, patients have a chance of infection, swelling, bruising and bleeding. Pain medication will be prescribed to help with pain and discomfort.

Patients with an InterStim Therapy device will not be able to have an MRI or be subjected to other kinds of diagnostic equipment. If a patient becomes pregnant or is trying to become pregnant, the doctor will need to shut off the device.

Alternative treatment options include:

  • Behavioral techniques
  • Managing your fluid intake
  • Reducing bladder irritants
  • Learning to suppress the urge with special techniques using your pelvic floor muscles
  • Medications
  • Self-catheterization (for retention)