UMass Memorial Medical Center is one of just a few medical centers in the country offering Sacral Nerve Stimulation for fecal incontinence—an embarrassing and sometimes socially isolating condition in which the sphincter muscle doesn’t work properly and leads to involuntary or unexpected loss of bowel control. Also called bowel incontinence, fecal incontinence can occur as a result of childbirth, prostate cancer surgery or radiation treatment, or neuropathy (nerve damage) related to diabetes or other chronic conditions.
SNS offers new hope to patients for whom medication, diet management and exercise haven’t helped to prevent bowel accidents. SNS is a widely practiced therapy for urinary incontinence and was recently approved by the FDA for fecal incontinence. It has been used successfully in Europe for both urinary and fecal incontinence for many years.
Key advantages of Sacral Nerve Stimulation (SNS)
SNS is a minimally invasive procedure that can provide relief from fecal incontinence for many patients. Its benefits include:
- Better control of bowel function
- Smaller incision, less pain
- Less risk of infection and complications
- Less bleeding
- Faster recovery
- Quicker return to normal activities
How SNS works
Mild electronic impulses are delivered to the sacral nerve, helping you better control your sphincter (bowel) muscles.
- Using a small incision while you are under local anesthesia, your colorectal surgeon implants a lead wire next to the sacral nerve near the base of your spine; the sacral nerve controls the sphincter muscles.
- After your incision heals, the lead wire is connected to a temporary, battery-powered “pacemaker” that sends electrical impulses to the sacral nerve. You keep a diary of bowel activity for a two-week test phase.
- After a successful test phase, the temporary pacemaker is disconnected and a permanent pacemaker is connected to the lead wire and implanted under your skin, near your upper buttock, while you are under local anesthesia.
- The stimulator is fine-tuned to optimize its effect for each patient. Although many patients have reported complete continence with SNS, the goal is a 50% improvement in symptoms and episodes within a year of surgery.
Read "New Implantable Sacral Nerve Stimulation System For Bowel Control" to learn more.
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