Fecal incontinence is a medical condition in which the patient sometimes unintentionally passes stool. As you might imagine, this condition can leave people feeling self-conscious or nervous about when and where they may have an episode. You might be surprised to learn that fecal incontinence is surprisingly common, affecting roughly five percent of the population and upwards of 50 percent of seniors living in nursing homes.
Because of the nature of the condition, it’s not something that people like to talk about, but that doesn’t mean you need to deny yourself answers to any questions you have about the condition. We’d be more than happy to discuss the condition and a range of treatment options, but in today’s blog, we want to focus on a minimally invasive treatment option that can help you regain control over your bodily processes and vastly improve your quality of life. Below, we talk about sacral nerve stimulation for fecal nerve incontinence.
What Is Sacral Nerve Stimulation?
Sacral nerve stimulation is a minimally invasive intervention that involves the insertion of electrodes into the area where your sacral nerves are located. These electrodes are housed in thin flexible wires that are placed under the skin near your tailbone. These wires are connected to a device that sends low-level electric pulses to stimulate these nerves.
By stimulating these nerves, you can actually improve the function of your anal sphincter and your pelvic floor muscles, giving you more control over your bowel movements. The technology was granted clearance by the FDA in 2011, and it typically provides significant relief for patients who haven’t been able to achieve it through conventional methods. Here’s a closer look at how the operation is performed.
The procedure is performed in two phases. For the first phase, the electrodes are placed inside your body, but the stimulating device remains outside of your body at the waist. Over the next 2-3 weeks, you’ll be asked to follow some dietary and activity restrictions so that the device can be optimized to the needs of your body. If the stimulation is showing promise after this phase, a second operation is performed to implant the small device under your skin at the abdomen. The implanted device can then be monitored and adjusted as needed with the assistance of an external remote.
Alternatives To Sacral Nerve Stimulation
Sacral nerve stimulation is considered the standard treatment for moderate to severe cases of fecal incontinence, but it’s typically not the first treatment method pursued. Your gastrointestinal surgeon may explore a few alternatives before having a conversation with you about sacral nerve stimulation, and some of those alternatives include:
- Dietary changes to avoid trigger foods
- Limiting or elimination of alcohol
- Increasing fiber intake through diet
- Fiber supplements
- Pelvic floor exercises
- Other medications
So if you or someone you know is dealing with fecal incontinence, encourage them to have a conversation with a GI specialist like Dr. Bhatti and the team at Bhatti GI Consultants. We’d be more than happy to conduct an exam, provide a diagnosis and walk you through all of your treatment options. You don’t need to be embarrassed or ashamed of your condition, especially when solutions are only one call away. For more information or for help with your gastrointestinal issue, give Dr. Bhatti and his team a call today at (651) 430-3800.