What is Bowel Control Therapy?

Doctor Holding Interstim NeurostimulatorsBowel Control Therapy (Medtronic InterStim™ system) gently stimulates the sacral nerves in your pelvic area that control your bowel. This may help restore bowel-brain communication and reduce your symptoms of fecal incontinence.

This therapy is simple and discreet, and it delivers the kind of relief that lets you enjoy the activities you love without a second thought.

  • Targets the nerves that control your bowel to help it function normally again
  • Clinically proven to stop or greatly reduce bowel accidents
  • Significantly improved quality of life (lifestyle, ability to cope, embarrassment, and depression)
  • Lets you evaluate if it works before you and your doctor decide
  • Allows you to get full-body MRI scans if you need them
  • Hundreds of thousands of people have experienced relief with this safe, FDA-approved and minimally invasive therapy

Medtronic bowel control therapy delivered by the InterStim™ systems offers recharge-free and rechargeable options, so you can choose the right one for your lifestyle.

  • The recharge-free InterStim X™ system may be best for most people; it's convenient and low maintenance.
  • The rechargeable InterStim™ Micro system is smaller, lasts longer, and requires regular recharging sessions.

Benefits & Risks

You may be a good candidate for Medtronic Bowel Control Therapy delivered by the InterStim™ systems if:

  • You have significant chronic fecal incontinence symptoms
  • You’ve tried lifestyle changes and oral medications with no positive outcome

Unlike other bowel control treatments, this therapy lets you try it first with an evaluation — like a test run, not a long-term commitment.

  • Starts with a short, in-office procedure
  • Go about most of your regular activities for 3-14 days
  • Track your symptoms to see if they improve
  • Talk with your doctor about your results and find out if it’s likely to help you

Complications can occur with the evaluation, including movement of the wire, technical problems with the device, and some temporary pain. Your doctor or nurse will provide you with the information regarding how to operate the test device, and inform you of other precautions related to the evaluation and activity restrictions.

Bowel control therapy has risks similar to any surgical procedure. The most common adverse events experienced during clinical studies include pain at implant sites, new pain, lead migration, infection, technical or device problems, adverse change in bowel or voiding function, and undesirable stimulation or sensations. Any of these may require additional surgery or cause return of symptoms. Discuss these potential risks and benefits with your doctor.

What to Expect

For your evaluation, a lead (thin wire) is inserted in the upper part of your buttock. The lead attaches to a small external device worn discreetly under your clothes. Stop, start, or adjust the therapy settings with an easy-to-use programmer that resembles a smartphone. Go about most of your regular activities for 3 to 14 days and track your symptoms to see if they improve

After your test, talk to your doctor about the results. Together, you can choose a powerful and personalized solution for your long-term care. Your evaluation device can be replaced with an implantable device called a neurostimulator during a short, outpatient procedure.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • You can try it before you decide, and it’s reversible if you change your mind later. 

  • No. It can help some people achieve complete continence, but it’s not a cure. If the neurostimulator is turned off or removed, symptoms can return.

  • Most people describe it as a tingling, flutter, or vibration in the pelvic area. It should not be painful. Stimulation settings can be adjusted, and sensations will vary from person to person.

  • Clinical data shows that after five years, people using the InterStim™ system continue to experience significant improvements in quality of life. No other SNM system has this long-term data. Your experience may be different. More people rely on Medtronic than any other SNM system to provide this relief.

  • People with an InterStim™ system can have a full-body MRI scan under certain conditions. Your doctor will determine whether you meet those conditions.