Help regaining bowel control available locally

InterStim therapy is a minimally invasive treatment that can help the more than 18 million adult Americans who suffer from bowel incontinence regain their active lifestyles.

People with bowel, or fecal incontinence, are not able to control bowel movements. Stools are either passed without the person’s knowledge, or the need to make a bowel movement comes on so quickly that the person cannot get to a bathroom on time.

The condition may cause stress or anxiety. Many patients worry about leaving home. Isolation, withdrawal from social activities and depression can result.

About one in 12 adults suffer from bowel incontinence. The condition is more likely to occur in women.

Although individuals of any age can have it, most cases occur in older adults.

Causes can include injuries from childbirth, stroke or advanced age, conditions that affect the pelvic nerves like diabetes as well as Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis.

Few people are willing to talk to their doctor about their symptoms. Many patients assume that a colostomy bag is the only cure, but InterStim therapy, which was approved by the FDA in 2011, is proving to be an effective treatment.

If you experience episodes of bowel incontinence at least once a week, mention them to your doctor. This chronic condition can worsen over time.

Keeping a journal about your condition, its frequency and possible triggers can help your doctor with the diagnosis and treatment.

Before recommending InterStim therapy, your doctor will diagnose and treat any underlying conditions causing your bowel incontinence. Diet and lifestyle modifications, pelvic floor exercises as well as medications may be tried.

If these treatments are not effective, InterStim therapy may be considered.

InterStim therapy is the same reversible treatment that has been used to treat bladder incontinence for many years.

For bowel incontinence, a neurostimulator, a small device implanted in the upper buttock is used to improve communication between the brain and the sacral nerves which control bowel function.

The neurostimulator creates mild electrical pulses that travel through tiny wire leads to stimulate the sacral nerves.

Both bladder and bowel incontinence can be treated with the same procedure if needed.

A trial is done before you commit to surgical implantation of the neurostimulator so you can assure that InterStim therapy works for you. During the approximately two week trial, you wear the neurostimulator under your clothing but experience the same effects as when the neurostimulator is implanted.

The minimally invasive procedure is done with local anesthesia making it available to a wider range of patients including those who can’t tolerate general anesthesia. Patients go home on the same day as the procedure, and it is covered by most insurances.

Randomized studies of patients who have had InterStim therapy show that 41 percent have regained complete continence following the procedures.

Eighty-three percent achieve at least a half reduction in episodes of incontinence per week. More locally, six out of seven patients who have had InterStim therapy were completely satisfied with their results.

If you suffer from bowel incontinence, the most important thing you can do is talk to your physician.

InterStim therapy opens up new and more appealing options for the treatment of this condition.

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Dr. Juan Lessmann is a specialist in colon and rectal surgery with Susquehanna Health General Surgery at Williamsport.