Nerve stimulation provides hope for sufferers of bowel incontinence


Across America a new procedure is now available for the treatment of chronic bowel incontinence. The treatment, called InterStim® Therapy is a minimally invasive procedure which uses electrical impulses to stimulate the sacral nerve and improve muscle function. As it currently stands it is the only effective long-term treatments for bowel incontinence available to patients in the US, and Northwestern Memorial Hospital is one of the first medical centres in the country to offer the procedure.

“Bowel control problems can have a significant, detrimental effect on a person’s emotional well-being,” said Anne-Marie Boller, a colon rectal surgeon at Northwestern Memorial. “Patients often struggle with everyday activities and withdraw from social interactions due to embarrassment or fear, causing them to suffer in silence. This treatment is a tremendous advancement that has the potential to improve patients’ bowel control and their quality of life.”

Recent studies of the impact of InterStim Therapy on patients have demonstrated a reduction or elimination of bowel incontinence in 80% of patients. The course of the treatment involves the completion of three key steps: test stimulation, surgical implant and post-implant follow up. During the first phase, a thin wire is placed to stimulate the sacral nerve. This allows doctors to determine if the patient is likely to benefit from the therapy before moving forward with the full procedure. If the trial phase is successful, a long-term neurostimulator device, similar to a pacemaker, is then implanted in the buttock. The device has adjustable settings that can be tailored to the patient needs, and over time can be controlled by the patient using a programmer which works like a remote control. The final phase is follow-up monitoring.

“Until now, few treatments have been successful in treating bowel incontinence,” said Amy Halverson, a colon rectal surgeon at Northwestern Memorial. “This is an exciting new option that will give many patients their freedom back by eliminating symptoms. We are excited to be able to offer this to patients.”

InterStim Therapy has been available for a while, as a treatment for patients with an overactive bladder. To date, more than 85,000 people have received InterStim Therapy worldwide.

For information on the diagnostic procedures and treatments available to your gastroenterology patients, take a look at the Prime Endoscopy Bristol webpage or speak to one of our clinicians.