Bladder "pacemaker" treats incontinence.
Naperville Sun HealthAware column:
Bladder "pacemaker" helps local patients
November 26, 2012
Two of the things equestrian official Vicki Rauwolf of Naperville is passionate about are horses and her work as a medical massage therapist. But on a ride 12 years ago, she was thrown by her horse, which then fell on top of her, breaking her pelvis and causing numerous other injuries.
Rauwolf, now 60 years old, underwent months of physical therapy to learn to walk again, and to combat urinary incontinence that was worsened by nerve damage from the accident.
“I succeeded in walking but the urgency just got worse,” Rauwolf says.
“I got to the point where I had to get up about six times during the night to go to the bathroom.”
Rauwolf also tried pelvic floor exercises and several medications, but nothing helped.
Most urinary incontinence falls into one of two categories. The first is stress incontinence, in which sneezing, laughing or heavy lifting can trigger leakage of urine. The second type is urge incontinence, where the bladder contracts at its own will, causing a strong, sudden need to urinate, often without control.
Rauwolf was referred to urologist Craig Smith of DuPage Medical Group.
“About 70 percent of patients prescribed medications for urinary incontinence are off them in three months, either because they’re ineffective or they experience side effects,” Dr. Smith says.
Smith is one of the few physicians in west suburban Chicago doing implants of Medtronic’s InterStim neurostimulator — a “pacemaker” for the bladder. By using a mild electric current to stimulate the bladder-controlling sacral nerve, the InterStim helps the bladder work as it should.
Rauwolf successfully completed a two-week test run using an external test stimulator and then OK’d having the device implanted under the skin. Rauwolf’s implant was done at Edward in February. She has a hand-held programmer to adjust the strength of the stimulation and to turn the system on or off.
The results have been positive.
“After the procedure, I said ‘Holy cow, this really works,’” Rauwolf recalls.
She’s now back in the saddle, riding her horse whenever she can.
“I’m excited about this therapy,” Smith says. “Many patients I see have suffered for years or even decades. While this technology isn’t effective for everyone, it improves the quality of life for many.”
Naperville, Illinois (IL) - Edward Hospital and Health Services