Ever heard of a pacemaker? I’m sure you have because the device is fairly common, but I can bet my bottom dollar that the pacemaker you’re probably thinking of is for the heart. Over here we like to talk about the land of leaks, so the pacemaker we’re going to tell you about is actually a bladder pacemaker.
Could It Be Just What You’ve Been Looking For?
For a lot of women, bladder pacemakers could be the best invention since sliced bread. But, not very many women know about them. Many of us search high and a low for a solution to stop leaks from interfering with our everyday lives. Amazingly, bladder pacemakers are rarely mentioned. In fact, most of you are probably learning about it right here for the first time.
So, I’m going to shed some light on an uncommon solution to a very common problem. After all, if a possible solution exists, you deserve to know about it. So hold on Kegel tight as I explore this medical device and if it could potentially work for you.
What Is A Bladder Pacemaker?
In short, a bladder pacemaker is an implanted device that helps your brain and bladder have a civil relationship. We know how the bladder sometimes gets a little pushy and tells the brain that it needs to empty right now. The bladder pacemaker sort of acts as a mediator.
So How Does It Mediate?
Now, I should mention that there is electricity involved. Bear with me because it’s not as scary as it sounds. The bladder pacemaker currently on the market is called Interstim and it helps with incontinence by sending electrical pulses that stop overactive communication between the bladder and brain. Our sacral nerves control the bladder and other urinary functions. If the brain and sacral nerves don’t communicate correctly, then you’ll be presented with the ‘gotta go, gotta go, gotta go right now’ feeling.
The bladder pacemaker intercepts by blocking the signals that reach out to the brain too often. It also filters signals that encourage urinary retention down to the lower pelvis. In other words, it’s not just stopping the unwanted signals, but propelling the ones you want.
Who Is A Good Candidate For A Bladder Pacemaker?
Although a bladder pacemaker can theoretically work for lots of different people, it’s an especially great option for women with conditions like overactive bladder and urge incontinence. If you’re experiencing stress incontinence, then the bladder pacemaker wouldn’t be the best option for you. Stress incontinence has more to do with having a weakened urethral sphincter or pelvic floor while the other conditions are related to nerves.
How Do You Implant A Bladder Pacemaker?
Doctor surgically implant bladder pacemakers. The word “surgery” gives a lot of women pause. However, keep in mind that not all surgeries are intensely invasive. In fact, the procedure involved with implanting a bladder pacemaker is quite minimal.
The good thing about a bladder pacemaker is that you get to do a test run to see if it’s a good fit for you. For the trial period, a surgeon will use a needle to pass a temporary wire through the sacral nerves. This will then be attached to an external simulator that would be worked by you.
If you and your doctor decide that the bladder pacemaker is right for you, great! A doctor can make it permanent by replacing the temporary wire with a permanent wire. Thanks to a small incision, this wire will be unseen to the naked eye. The intensity of the pacemaker’s electrical impulses will actually be up to you as you’ll control it through an external remote. What’s the best part about all of this? The implantation is a simple outpatient procedure, and you won’t even have to go under general anesthesia.
Don’t Forget About The Batteries
InterStim is relatively new technology, which means that your doctor will want to follow up with you every six to twelve months. In addition, you’ll need to eventually replace the pacemaker’s batteries, though they last for three to five years. But for many, this is a small price to pay for a solution to bladder issues.
So, What Do You Say?
You and your doctors are the only ones who can decide whether or not the InterStim bladder pacemaker might work for you. Yes, surgical intervention can be a bit nerve-wracking at first. And you’re allowed to be anxious. However, a bladder pacemaker could offer you a better quality of life. If you can open the door to activities that you’ve long put off because of spritz and drips, or opportunities that you’ve felt insecure about, why wouldn’t you?
By Jessica Thomas, MPH