A new minimally invasive treatment is helping people with bowel incontinence regain their active lifestyles. Approved by the Food and Drug Administration in March 2011, InterStim therapy can help the more than 18 million Americans who suffer from bowel incontinence.
Bowel, or fecal incontinence, is the inability to control bowel movements. Stools either are 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 in time.
The condition creates stress and anxiety, and some people feel they cannot risk leaving home. Isolation, withdrawal from social activities and depression can result.
Causes for bowel incontinence can include injuries from childbirth, stroke or advanced age, conditions that affect the pelvic nerves such as diabetes as well as Parkinson's disease and multiple sclerosis.
It's not a condition you hear many people talk about, but one in eight adults suffers from bowel incontinence. Many patients assume that a colostomy bag is the only cure.
Now that there's a relatively simple treatment, it's time to get the condition out in the open. If you experience episodes of bowel incontinence at least once a week, mention them to your doctor. This chronic condition can worsen over time.
Before recommending InterStim therapy, your doctor will diagnose and treat any underlying conditions causing your bowel incontinence. Diet and lifestyle modifications as well as medications may be tried to help with your condition. If these treatments are not effective, InterStim therapy may be considered.
InterStim therapy has been used to treat bladder incontinence for many years. Now the same technology is used to stimulate muscles in the pelvic floor to help with bowel incontinence. A neurostimulator, a small device implanted in the upper buttock, creates mild electrical pulses that travel through a tiny wire, stimulating the sacral nerves that control bowel function.
A trial is done before you commit to surgical implantation of the neurostimulator so you can ensure that InterStim therapy works for you. During a trial of about two weeks, 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.
If you suffer from bowel incontinence, the most important thing you can do is talk to your physician. InterStim therapy provides new and more appealing options for the treatment of this condition.
Learn more at www.medtronic.com/patients/bowel-incontinence/index.htm.
Lessmann is a specialist in colon and rectal surgery with Susquehanna Health General Surgery at Williamsport.