The Interstim stimulates the third Sacral nerve, a nerve that has a lot to do with urine and bowel control. It can cause tremendous improvement for patients with urinary urgency and frequency as well as urinary incontinence and retention. It also will help some people with fecal incontinence, however implantation for this indication is awaiting FDA approval. The Interstim will intermittently give a small impulse to the nerve, that when you focus on it can be felt in the vagina. Obviously you are not "being shocked" the whole day. You only feel it by really focusing on it.
Another misunderstanding is that you would have to change settings or press buttons. It is all programmed and if it works fine, no change is necessary.
The Interstim is for people who have failed numerous other treatments and is definitely not the first treatment.
The advantage of the
Interstim is that you can "test-drive" it. A temporary
stimulator can be inserted in the clinic under local
anesthesia and can be tried for a week. After a week of
trying, it is removed in less than a minute and then it
can be decided if it is the right solution. Even the
regular Interstim device implantation requires only
local anesthesia and possibly some slight sedation if
desired and is inserted in a hospital.
Even though for a lot of patients the Interstim device has been proven to be their magic robot, it is not the first step to treat overactive bladder.
If bothered by an urgency to go, losing urine before getting to the bathroom and frequency of urination, the first step is pelvic muscle control and nerve stimulation. For starters this can have a tremendously positive effect, and is not the same as "I have tried Kegel exercises at home".
Central Florida UroGynecology, in Rockledge, has a personalized computer enhanced, biofeedback program to teach you how to control and contract your muscles as well as some passive stimulation of the muscles and nerve. Medications can aid and add to the treatment of overactive bladder, but the muscle training should usually come first. Tibial nerve stimulation, which indirectly also works on the nerves controlling the bladder, is a next step up and is non-permanent nerve stimulation. This was recently covered by Medicare again.
The Interstim device, "your bladder pacemaker, little robot", is a permanent device. If your overactive bladder is so severe that it rules your life and you have tried other treatments, you may want to listen to my patients who wonder why: "everybody does not have a device implanted?" The short answer is : not everybody will need one. However for some people it will be a life saver.
A robot for overactive bladder? No not really, but we have come really close and definitely should not be scared of them.
Marja Sprock, MD is a fellowship trained urogynecologist who will be able to assist you in the best choice of treatment for your bladder, bowel or vaginal prolapse problems. Also your specialist for cosmetic vaginal surgery.