A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic

New treatment helps with bowel incontinence

Man and woman bathroom signs

Bowel control issues can be corrected in less than 30 minutes with InterStim Therapy.

Bowel control issues are a potentially embarrassing, yet serious health problem that many people try to ignore and deal with on their own. Marshfield Clinic is the first health care organization in central Wisconsin to offer an in-office procedure in which a patient can have the problem corrected in less than 30 minutes.

Women are most susceptible

When traditional methods of treatment fail, Gastroenterologist Dr. Lisa Jones has a new option called InterStim Therapy. Using mild electrical stimulation similar to that used in a pacemaker can help alleviate chronic bowel incontinence symptoms.

People feel helpless and embarrassed

“The social impact of fecal incontinence has a dramatic effect on people,” Jones said. “My patients often feel hopeless and may not leave their homes because of the condition. Everything in their lives is planned around their incontinence in an attempt to avoid an embarrassing situation.”

Patients are seen in the office, where Jones begins conservative treatment which may include dietary changes, medication adjustments, evaluation, management of underlying diarrhea and pelvic floor re-training. If patients fail conservative therapy, Jones proceeds with InterStim.

Here’s the process:

  • Jones tests patients to see if InterStim Therapy, manufactured by Medtronic, is right for them. The testing consists of a thin wire lead that is placed for seven days to determine if symptoms improve.
  • If symptoms have improved, then a pacemaker-like implantable device called a neurostimulator is placed. The therapy targets the miscommunication that may occur between the brain and the sacral nerves that help to control bowel function.
  • Urologist Dr. Chirasakdi Ratanawong places the stimulator under the skin in the upper buttock near the sacral nerves. The InterStim system delivers mild electrical pulses to stimulate these nerves, helping the brain and nerves to communicate so the bowel, pelvic floor and related muscles can function correctly.

The stimulator has long been used for urinary incontinence and later was found to help for bowel control.

“We want to normalize this experience for our patients, talk about the options and get them treatment quickly so they can resume enjoying their lives,” Jones said.

If you or a loved one is interested in scheduling a consultation for bowel control issues, contact the Gastroenterology office at 715-847-3262.

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