New Implant May Help Incontinence

It’s certainly not a favorite topic of conversation, but incontinence affects more than 13 million people in the United States alone. Most of them are women. Medication can help some and biofeedback may help others, but sometimes nothing seems to work.

A new, reversible implant procedure may help. It’s called Interstim therapy. A small generator about the size of a stopwatch is implanted under the skin of the hip or abdomen. The generator sends mild electrical signals down a wire to the nerve that controls bladder function.

“We get success in up to 80 percent of the patients,” said urologist Stuart Chalfin, M.D.

Even before the surgery, both doctor and patient have a good idea if it will succeed. That’s because patients try a temporary, external stimulator first.

Chalfin’s first implant patient says her “test-drive” more than two years ago convinced her it might help. She said her life was miserable because she had to go to the bathroom three or four times an hour.

All that changed after she received the Interstim implant. She says it gave her the freedom to travel wherever and whenever she wanted.

The Interstim therapy is not for everyone; it won’t help stress incontinence or incontinence due to spinal cord injuries. It can cost up to $40,000, but some major insurance companies may cover it, including Medicare.