For years, Peggy Pepper struggled to control her bladder.
“I used to use the pads, medication for a year. And it didn’t help,” says Peggy Pepper.
When the voiding dysfunction is not mechanical, meaning nothing’s wrong with the body, it may be a neurological problem where the brain and bladder nerves stop communicating. Many people do well on medications. But others, like Pepper, don’t. So doctors may opt for a high tech bladder solution.
“This subset that we’re talking about, we test them, make sure they fit the qualification for the procedure and then we’ll go ahead and implant the pacemaker. Which basically I call a pacemaker for your bladder,” says Dr. Mark Mintz, urologist on Lee Memorial Health System’s medical staff.
The interstim device can fit in the palm of your hand. It’s implanted beneath the skin in the hip area. Wires send mild electrical pulses to the sacral nerves, which control the bladder.
“It’s almost like telling the nerve to be quite because you keep tapping on it and eventually it gets a numb effect. It calms the nerve down,” says Dr. Mintz.
Patients control the amount of stimulation with a handheld programmer, which talks to the neurotransmitter inside their body. Together they make up for the lack of conversation between brain and nerves.
“It feels like you’re holding it in…but not forcefully. That it’s just there and waiting, rather as before I’d have to run for it,” says Pepper.
“If you’re leaking and you’re having to wear Depends or having to go to the bathroom every hour to hour and a half or two hours, you don’t really have a lifestyle. We basically give them back their social life,” says Dr. Mintz.
The procedure is a game-changer, which has already put more than a 100,000 people back in a position of power.