Diaper sales are at an all-time high. And not the kind for babies. Unfortunately, those diapers that cannot fly off the shelf fast enough are for adults like us, but who are struggling with bladder and bowel leakage. Most people who buy diapers and pads for themselves, a parent, or a loved one do not realize that the problem can be treated a better way. The truth is, the best solution for incontinence isn’t an adult diaper. It’s a tiny medical device.
A Cycle of Discouragement
Most people get discouraged trying to treat their bladder and bowel leakage after lots of visits to doctors. And who can blame them? The standard treatments have been ineffective, consisting of medications that do not work well, cause dry mouth and constipation, and are now associated with memory loss. Biofeedback and pelvic floor exercise therapies that can help a little but rarely reverse the problem once it is serious enough to require diapers. And invasive surgery has a mixed track record at best.
The treatment for incontinence that exhibits by far the highest success rate is the least known and the least utilized. It is a medical device (demonstration version shown here for perspective) placed in a 25-minute painless minor procedure that is FDA approved and covered by Medicare and virtually every other public and private insurance plan. It goes by the name sacral neuromodulation implant.
The device is a lot like a pacemaker. For many people, the idea of a pacemaker is a familiar one: a small office procedure at the cardiologist’s office in which a small device is placed under the skin on the chest. The computer technology sends a signal to the complex muscle system that is our beating heart, and — lo and behold — it restores our heartbeat back to a healthy rhythm. The same underlying science and pace making technology led to sacral neuromodulation. In its early days, many of the engineers referred to it as a pelvic floor pacemaker. That is because the implanted device uses similar computer technology to send a signal to restore the proper function of the complex muscular system that is the pelvic floor. The pelvic floor muscles control the bowel and bladder sphincters, so restoring them to working order means no more leakage and no more diapers.
The device is strikingly successful. In published studies, the success rate runs around 90%. And this is among individuals who have already tried everything else. Among highly experienced surgeons and centers, the success rate is even higher.
An individual with incontinence or overactive bladder first undergoes a test or trial minor procedure that usually takes about 20 minutes, as an outpatient. During the test, the surgeon learns a great deal about whether the device will be successful by observing how the pelvic floor muscles respond. Then, that individual goes home wearing a temporary device taped on the outside of the skin to give it a test run for a few days. If the pace making stimulation is successful, and it is over 90% of the time in experienced centers, the the individual can move forward with the permanent implant. The permanent implant procedure is what surgeons refer to as a “minor procedure.” It usually takes about 25 minutes and involves a 1-inch incision to place the device under the skin. After some testing and programming, the individual walks out of the center with a Band-Aid and a whole lot less need to buy diapers.
An Increasingly Popular Resolution
For many years, the centers with enough pelvic floor expertise to implant these devices were few and far between. They were very few physicians skilled in the technique and it took years to bring it to widespread use across and the country. But that has changed. Nearly every community today has trained providers who come from the fields of urology, general surgery, gynecology, and the more experienced they are, the better the results are.
So, if you or a loved one are buying diapers due to bladder or bowel leakage, consider solving the root cause of the problem with a tiny pace making device. You may soon be saving a lot of money by not buying diapers.
Ready to learn more? Contact the Sasse Surgical team today.