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Sacral Nerve Stimulation

What is sacral nerve stimulation?

Sacral nerve stimulation (SNS) is treatment for urinary retention without blockage, overactive bladder symptoms, and fecal incontinence. Overactive bladder symptoms include urinary urge incontinence and urinary frequency. Electrical impulses are sent directly to the sacral nerves to improve or restore bladder or bowel function. Sacral nerves are in your lower back. They control your anus, rectum, and bladder functioning. SNS is done when medicines and behavior therapy are not effective.

What will happen during SNS?

SNS is a two-part procedure:

  • The first part is a trial phase to see if it will improve your symptoms. A temporary or permanent lead is placed into your lower back, through to your sacral nerves, for 3 days to 2 weeks. The lead is connected to an external stimulator. Electrical impulses will stimulate your sacral nerves. You will be asked to write down your symptoms and bladder or bowel function.
  • The second part involves implanting the stimulator. Your healthcare provider will complete this part if you had a decrease in symptoms during the trial phase. He will make an incision on the side of your upper buttock. A space is made just under your skin and the stimulator is connected to a permanent lead. Then, the stimulator is placed in the space and the space is closed with stitches. You will be given a programming device to adjust and turn the stimulator off and on as needed.

What are the risks of SNS?

You can have pain, discomfort and infection in the area where the stimulator was implanted. You may have an allergic reaction to the materials that the lead or stimulator is made from. You may have pain or feel a shock during stimulation. The lead may move and you may need to have the procedure done again. You cannot have an MRI of your abdomen or pelvis if you have a stimulator implanted. An MRI can cause the leads to heat up and cause problems with your stimulator. You may set off metal detectors at airports or theft detectors in stores.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • You have pain at the stimulator site.
  • You have a fever and the stimulator site is red and warm to the touch.
  • Your symptoms return or get worse.
  • You have new pain or new symptoms with stimulation.
  • You feel like you are being shocked with the stimulator on or off.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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