Nerve stimulation procedure can improve bowel control problems

October 21, 2011 By Amanda Harper, University of Cincinnati

An estimated 18 million adults suffer silently with a life-altering condition, known as bowel incontinence, because they believe the problem can’t be fixed.

But problems with are common, says Ian Paquette, MD—especially among women who’ve labored through multiple childbirths that resulted in obstetric injuries to the rectum. 

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently approved a new procedure known as sacral (marketed by Medtronic as InterStim Therapy) for the treatment of bowel incontinence. Paquette is the first colon and rectal surgeon in the Greater Cincinnati region to offer sacral nerve stimulation for bowel incontinence.

"Problems with bowel control most often occur in women who’ve had children because the physical stress of labor weakens the pelvic floor muscles—particularly if the sphincter muscle was injured,” explains Paquette, a UC Health colon and rectal surgeon and assistant professor of surgery at the UC College of Medicine. "If that muscle tear doesn’t fully heal, over time it becomes weaker and the patient experiences problems with bowel control—sometimes these symptoms may occur many years later.”  

Sacral nerve stimulation involves implantation of a small device next to the sacral nerve that acts as a type of pacemaker, helping to control the timing and frequency of bowel movements. The same device has been used in the United States for 10 years to treat overactive bladder and urinary incontinence.

A multicenter clinical trial sponsored by Medtronic showed that 47 percent of people who had sacral nerve stimulation achieved 100 percent bowel continence, which lasted at least three years. Additionally, 86 percent of the people improved at least 50 percent.

"The great thing about this procedure is that the patient has the opportunity to live with the device for two weeks during a test phase and see if it helps their bowel control before choosing to undergo the device implantation,” adds Paquette.  

During this test phase, a flexible wire is implanted near the patient’s tailbone and connected to a small external device worn on the patient’s waistband. The external device sends mild electric pulses through the wire to stimulate nerves near the tailbone and regularize bowel activities. If the device has positive results during the test phase, the patient can choose to have the device permanently implanted through minimally invasive surgery. 

Before pursuing sacral nerve stimulation, Paquette completes a comprehensive patient evaluation to identify the underlying causes of incontinence. This includes assessing nerve and voiding function as well as anal sphincter muscle strength and integrity. It is important for the patient to see a specialist who commonly deals with this disorder to determine the exact cause of the condition, and to discuss alternate surgical and nonsurgical approaches.

Explore further: New therapy provides hope for millions of people suffering from bowel incontinence

Related Stories

New therapy provides hope for millions of people suffering from bowel incontinence

July 18, 2011
A new procedure is now available for the treatment of chronic bowel incontinence, a disorder impacting the lives of more than 18 million Americans. The treatment, called InterStim Therapy is a minimally invasive procedure ...

URMC surgeon is nation's first to implant pacemaker-like device for bowel incontinence

July 4, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- Since the technology secured FDA approval this spring, a University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) surgeon this month became the first in the nation to implant a pacemaker-like device that could help ...

Bladder 'pacemaker' can fix overactive bladder, other voiding issues

April 29, 2011
If your day is punctuated by urgent trips to the bathroom or trouble emptying your bladder, you might have a voiding dysfunction condition. The good news is that it can be easily treated.

Recommended for you

Study ends debate over role of steroids in treating septic shock

January 19, 2018
The results from the largest ever study of septic shock could improve treatment for critically ill patients and save health systems worldwide hundreds of millions of dollars each year.

New approach could help curtail hospitalizations due to influenza infection

January 18, 2018
More than 700,000 Americans were hospitalized due to illnesses associated with the seasonal flu during the 2014-15 flu season, according to federal estimates. A radical new approach to vaccine development at UCLA may help ...

Flu may be spread just by breathing, new study shows; coughing and sneezing not required

January 18, 2018
It is easier to spread the influenza virus (flu) than previously thought, according to a new University of Maryland-led study released today. People commonly believe that they can catch the flu by exposure to droplets from ...

Zika virus damages placenta, which may explain malformed babies

January 18, 2018
Though the Zika virus is widely known for a recent outbreak that caused children to be born with microencephaly, or having a small head, and other malformations, scientists have struggled to explain how the virus affects ...

Certain flu virus mutations may compensate for fitness costs of other mutations

January 18, 2018
Seasonal flu viruses continually undergo mutations that help them evade the human immune system, but some of these mutations can reduce a virus's potency. According to new research published in PLOS Pathogens, certain mutations ...

Study reveals how MRSA infection compromises lymphatic function

January 17, 2018
Infections of the skin or other soft tissues with the hard-to-treat MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) bacteria appear to permanently compromise the lymphatic system, which is crucial to immune system function. ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.