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Sacral Nerve Stimulation 

Sacral nerve stimulation can potentially reduce or eliminate bladder or bowel control problems. Sacral nerve stimulation can help the bladder, bowel or sphincter muscles to function properly by delivering gentle electrical impulses to the sacral nerve. This treatment may be appropriate for a patient with bladder or bowel control problems that have not adequately improved with conservative treatments, such as medications, diet modifications, biofeedback, bladder retraining and pelvic muscle exercises. 

What Conditions Can Be Treated With Sacral Nerve Stimulation? 

Sacral nerve stimulation is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for treating: 

  • Urinary urgency – An inability to postpone the need to urinate 
  • Urinary frequency – The need to urinate eight or more times per day 
  • Urge incontinence – Urine leakage with an urge to urinate 
  • Nonobstructive urinary retention – A weak and dribbly urine stream, urine leakage, the need for a catheter to pass urine or an absence of the sensation of bladder fullness 
  • Fecal incontinence – Accidental bowel leakage 

What to Expect With Sacral Nerve Stimulation 

An Initial Evaluation 

Most patients begin with a peripheral nerve evaluation, which is an in-office test that does not require an incision. After numbing the area around the tail bone, where the sacral nerve is located, a physician will place two thin wires under the skin. The wires will be attached to an external device that the patient will keep with him or her for the next few days.  

As the patient goes about his or her normal activities, the device will deliver mild pulses of energy to the sacral nerve, which influences the bladder, sphincter and pelvic floor muscles. If the patient experiences meaningful symptom improvement during the test period, he or she may be a candidate for long-term treatment. 

Long-Term Therapy 

Long-term sacral nerve stimulation therapy involves a minimally invasive procedure during which a surgeon implants a neurotransmitter under the skin in the upper buttock area. The device will continually deliver mild electrical impulses through thin wires positioned close to the sacral nerve.  

Is Sacral Nerve Stimulation Effective? 

Used for decades, sacral nerve stimulation can be highly effective for treating bladder and bowel control issues that do not respond to first-line therapies. Studies show that most patients experience significant symptom improvement, including fewer urine leaks and accidental bladder voids. What’s more, the treatment is completely reversible and can be discontinued at any time with no permanent effect on the sacral nerve. 

Tampa General Hospital offers sacral nerve stimulation and other innovative treatment options for urological conditions.