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Neuromodulation is a minimally invasive procedure that can help prevent bladder leaks due to overactive bladder (OAB), a condition that affects more than 37 million Americans. This condition, characterized by a frequent and urgent need to empty your bladder, can be disruptive to a person’s quality of life, and may even lead to bladder leaks.
Many people try things like bladder retraining or medications for OAB to manage their symptoms. But if behavioral changes and medications aren’t working, and you’re tired of dealing with absorbents, it might be time to try a different approach.
The two types of neuromodulation therapies outlined below are advanced therapies that may be good options for you. They’re a bit more involved than taking a medication, but are simple enough procedures to perform in short sessions, within a doctor’s office.
Best of all, neuromodulation procedures have few side effects, are minimally invasive, and have been proven to be effective at reducing bladder leaks.
If you’re looking for something beyond medication, but don’t want to explore surgery, ask your doctor about sacral neuromodulation, or percutaneous tibial neuromodulation.
WHAT IS SACRAL NEUROMODULATION?
Sacral Neuromodulation (SNM) restores bladder function by stimulating the sacral nerves. The sacral nerve is responsible for delivering signals between the brain and the bladder. SNM helps control these signals so that the bladder can function normally. For over 20 years, doctors have been using SNM as an option to treat overactive bladder.
HOW DOES SNM WORK?
Sacral neuromodulation is a procedure that’s performed in your doctor’s office. A neurostimulator is implanted parallel to the sacral nerve. This neurostimulator generates mild electrical pulses, which stimulate the sacral nerve and normalize the communication between the bladder and the brain, helping to control symptoms of overactive bladder. Unlike oral medications that target the muscular component of bladder control, SNM controls the symptoms of OAB through direct modulation of the nerve activity.
ARE THERE SIDE EFFECTS?
SNM is considered an effective therapy for overactive bladder and has few side effects. It is a minimally invasive procedure that can be reversed if the patient experiences discomfort or is unsatisfied. The most common reported side effects are pain where the device has been implanted or undesirable stimulation.
However, SNM is not for everyone. Those with mechanical obstruction, such as benign prostatic hypertrophy, cancer, or urethral stricture should not use SNM for bladder control.
IS SNM RIGHT FOR ME?
If your doctor thinks you may be a good candidate for SNM, he or she will begin an evaluation phase, which lasts around 2 weeks and is designed to see if SNM will be a successful option for you. During this time, a thin, temporary wire will be inserted in your lower back, near the sacral nerves which control the bladder, and will be connected to, and controlled by a device, which delivers electric stimulation to the sacral nerve. Your doctor will monitor your symptoms over the course of this evaluation period, and, if successful, the temporary wire will be removed and a more permanent device, similar to a pacemaker, will be implanted just under the skin. SNM has been shown to be effective for as many as five years.
IS SNM RIGHT FOR ME?
If you’ve tried behavioral therapy or medications and haven’t seen the results you’re looking for, or if the side effects are more than you can handle, ask your doctor about SNM.
PERCUTANEOUS TIBIAL NEUROMODULATION
WHAT IS PERCUTANEOUS TIBIAL NEUROMODULATION?
Percutaneous Tibial Neuromodulation (PTNM) stimulates the tibial nerve through an acupuncture-like needle placed in the skin near your ankle. The needle produces an electrical pulse that travels to the sacral nerve plexus (which helps regulate bladder and pelvic floor function) via the tibial nerve.
PTNM helps to improve symptoms of OAB, including reducing the urgency and frequency of needing to use the bathroom, and a reduction of accidents.
The treatment is performed in your doctor’s office.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
PTNM is thought to normalize control of the bladder’s natural reflexes by gently stimulating the tibial nerve. Your doctor can administer PTNM in his or her office.
Therapy often starts with a 12 week trial, delivered to the patient through weekly, 30-minute in office sessions. If improvements have been seen over the 12 week period, patients may be able to increase the amount of times between sessions to monthly maintenance sessions
ARE THERE SIDE EFFECTS?
Side effects are typically temporary, and are most commonly reported as mild pain or inflammation at or near the stimulation site.
IS PTNM IT RIGHT FOR ME?
PTNM may be a good option for you if behavioral changes or medications haven’t worked. Talk to your doctor about PTNM to see if you are a good candidate.
Medtronic, a leader in bladder control therapies, offers options for both SNM and PTNM. Visit their website today to learn more, and sign up for their e-newsletter to learn more about SNM and PTNM, hear success stories, and learn if these therapies may be right for you.
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