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Bladder Pacemaker

Updated on July 19, 2012
Location of Bladder Pacemaker implant
Location of Bladder Pacemaker implant | Source

What is a Bladder Pacemaker (InterStim® Implant)

Referred to as sacral neuromodulation; sacral nerve stimulation therapy; and the InterStim® implant, a bladder pacemaker is a device that is surgically implanted to help those who suffer from the pain and degraded quality of life caused from bladder (urinary) incontinence. Similar to a cardiac pacemaker, the implant is programed to stimulate the bladder nerves located in the lower back (sacrum), to relax or tense as urine fills the bladder or as elimination of urine is required. These bladder pacemakers have been found to improve the quality of life in men and women who primarily suffer with severe bladder problems.

25 million people suffer from urinary incontinnece

The Involuntary Loss Of Urine Control

What Are The 3 Types Of Incontinence

There are three types of incontinence that attack the bladder; urge incontinence, stress incontinence, and overflow incontinence. All of which can reduce the comfort found within daily life. Each type of bladder control loss is associated with a particular causal feature. Let's take a look at each to determine which may be effecting you or someone you care about.

Symptoms of Urinary Bladder Incontinence

The three types of bladder incontinence.
The three types of bladder incontinence. | Source

What You Think Really Does Matter!

Do you, or someone you know suffer from a bladder incontinence problem?

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1. Urge Urinary Incontinence

This is mostly due to an overactive bladder. This is most common in those who have an urge to urinate but, simply can't make it to the restroom in time. This type of incontinence can also be triggered by cold or running water which creates a sudden urge or accident. In some situations, no real symptom is apparent besides the act of moving around, adjusting in one's seat, or simply standing up after laying or sitting down. Urge incontinence (overactive bladder) is commonly developed among those who have multiple sclerosis, a spinal injury, and even after a stroke occurs.

2. Stress Urinary Incontinence

This is the most common type of bladder leakage problem. Urine is leaked out when walking, after activities, and especially during sneezing. This develops because of weakened muscles at the bottom of the bladder (those muscles that support the weight of the bladder and its functions), which can cause the sphincter pelvic muscles to be lacking in the required strength to support proper bladder function. Other causes are child birth, trauma from surgery, reduction of estrogen due to the onset of menopause, and most frequently stress urinary incontinence can be caused by radical prostate surgery.

Bladder Pacemaker Information

  • The device can in some cases, replace major surgery that is needed for bladder augmentation, or when bladder medications are just not getting the job done.

  • University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) holds the patent on this technology.

  • the InterStim® implant is the trade name for the bladder pacemaker, which is manufactured in Minneapolis by Medtronics Inc.

3. Overflow Urinary Incontinence

We may all think we have encountered this condition, because we have just waited too long and the bladder can no longer hold the weight of the urine building up, thus an accident takes place. Overflow incontinence is similar, yet different at the same time. In severe cases, it happens when a full bladder is unable to evacuate due to damage or other reasons, but leaking still occurs. This is accompanied by tiny amounts of frequent urination or an actual unmanageable dribble of urine. Pretty rare in females, but is common in men who have encountered surgery or prostate problems.

How Does the Bladder Pacemaker Work

The Brain and The Bladder Communication Deviation

Should, for some reason, the brain and the nerves connecting and communicating with the function of the bladder stop working, an implant (bladder pacemaker) may be something to consider. The device is found to work flawlessly in about 50% of the patients who are tested and determined to be good candidates for the device (the testing phase takes about a week, and is simply a matter of wearing an external device on the belt to see if the patient's bladder will respond to stimulation). For most of the patients that qualify, the results are as different as night and day. This little device measures around 2" in diameter and is about a ¼" thick, with top quality stainless steel housing the important electronic parts. Such a small creation can restore the bladder to a normal functioning state, even when the brain can no longer communicate with the bladder along the nerve path.

Bladder Pacemaker Implant close up
Bladder Pacemaker Implant close up | Source

About The Bladder Pacemaker Surgery

Through surgical implantation, a doctor will place the bladder pacemaker into the lower abdomen under the skin. Four little wires will then connect the nerves in the lower back (sacrum)—which are the pathway from the brain to bladder—to the device. After external programming by the doctor is completed, these nerves will be stimulated to either relax or tense according to this program, offering restored bladder control to the patient. The surgery rarely last longer than two hours, and usually only takes about half of an hour. The patient has some limited control of the device, as they can either turn it "up" or "down" for a more personalized outcome.

Resources For Bladder Control (Urinary Incontinenece)

  • Medline Plus - A service of the National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH)
  • Harvard Health Publications - Harvard Medical School, bladder control training for urinary incontinence.
  • Cleveland Clinic - Coping with Urinary Incontinence.
  • Mayo Clinic - Bladder control problems; Medications for controlling urinary incontinence.

UCSF Bladder Pacemaker Study

Dr. Emil Tanagho, Professor of Urology at UCSF began his research back in the 1970s. The goal was to study bladder conditions in people who were paralyzed. He soon discovered that the same type of stimulation that worked on paralyzed patients, would also work on those who suffered from other types of bladder control as well.

In 1997, the study gained approval as a bladder pacemaker for the following purposes:

  1. Urge incontinence
  2. Multiple Sclerosis
  3. Parkinson's Disease
  4. Interstitial Cystitis
  5. Pelvic pain due to overactive pelvic muscles

Urinary Incontinence in Women (VIDEO)

Conclusion of Bladder Pacemaker

With this helpful device, it would seem that bladder control conditions for about 50% of those who experience the problem can find a significant relief through having the InterStim® implanted. Being able to avoid a total bladder augmentation may extend the length of life for someone you love, but can surely improved the quality of life for qualifying patients who suffer the emotional and physical pains of bladder incontinence.

Comments for "Bladder Pacemaker"

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  • profile image

    Fida Muhammad 

    5 years ago


  • K9keystrokes profile imageAUTHOR

    India Arnold 

    6 years ago from Northern, California

    Sarah, I wish you the best of everything before, during, and after your surgery! I am so thrilled that this device can change your world and quality of life.

    Blessing to you little one~


  • profile image


    6 years ago

    I'm 16 years old, and I am struggling with bladder failure. My bladder doesn't work at all and I have to use catheters 4 times a day. I've lost feeling as to when I have to go pee and everything. I've dealt with this two years now, the doctors told me I would have to use catheters the rest of my life then this amazing thing happened I found out about the bladder pacemaker. I'm fixing to get it done. Praise The Lord

  • profile image


    7 years ago

    I am in the test stage right now and will gladly be getting the phase 2 surgery Monday. I was having to catherterize myself everyday usually at least three times a day. Now that I have the device I am not having any residuals. This is working amazing for me so far.

  • K9keystrokes profile imageAUTHOR

    India Arnold 

    7 years ago from Northern, California

    Pamela99~ The bladder pacemaker was something new to me also, but once I researched the device I thought is was simply amazing! By restoring the social side of life to those who may pull away due to a bladder issue, folks may regain an active happy life. The problem is very wide spread so I am thrilled for those who need help that this product has evolved into a practical prostheses for bladder control. It's so nice to see you here today, Pam; thank you for making the trip!


    DzyMsizzy~ Bladder incontinence is such a drag on the day to day quality of life to be sure! It is not something I encounter personally, but my best friend is the inspiration for the hub. She has Stress incontinence and it has made her social life slow considerably. My hope is that at some point, the bladder pacemaker can help solve her condition and get her back into social-butterfly mode! Thanks for sharing your comments, ma'am!


    Millionaire Tips~ I can see why you feel 50% is low, but this is in reference with the thousands of patients who commit to the qualifying testing and find absolutely perfect results. A portion of the patients find a less than perfect, yet acceptable outcome. However, I totally see your point!


    dinkan53~Glad you approve of the article! Thanks for sharing your comments.


    Living Well Now~ I was also thrilled for my friend that such a device is on the market! This bladder pacemaker helps more the aging population, as it has been found worthy in helping those who are younger but suffer the problems associated with urinary incontinence. Thanks for sharing your remarks!


  • Pamela99 profile image

    Pamela Oglesby 

    7 years ago from Sunny Florida

    I'm sure this device will help many people who suffer from this problem. I had not heard of a bladder pacemaker before. You wrote an excellent article explaining the entire situation very thoroughly. Voted up, useful and interesting.

  • Living Well Now profile image

    Living Well Now 

    7 years ago from Near Indianapolis

    How interesting! I didn't know a device like this existed. This should be a boon to an aging population that wants to stay active without worrying about incontinence.

  • dinkan53 profile image


    7 years ago from India

    This is a good news for those making urgent trips to the bathroom or trouble emptying their bladder. Rated up and useful.

  • Millionaire Tips profile image

    Shasta Matova 

    7 years ago from USA

    This is interesting - I hadn't heard of this device. 50% seems pretty low to me, but it is good that they are trying to find a solution.

  • DzyMsLizzy profile image

    Liz Elias 

    7 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Interesting, indeed. There are so many causes for this annoying problem, but the coughing, sneezing, laughing or sudden movement types are bad, but it is THE most annoying when it happens just as you rise from the "throne." WTH??!! Where'd THAT come from??!!

    Voted up, interesting and useful.


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