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How the InterStim System Works

A new treatment option recently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is sacral nerve stimulation with InterStim Therapy for Bowel Control. This new minimally invasive treatment option is indicated for patients with chronic fecal incontinence who failed or could not tolerate more conservative treatments. The reversible treatment uses a small implanted neurostimulator to send mild electrical pulses to the sacral nerves, which control the function of the bladder and bowels, to decrease symptoms of incontinence.

Treatment with the InterStim system involves three steps: evaluation, a minimally invasive surgical implant, and ongoing post-implant follow-up appointments.


The test stimulation process begins with an in-office or outpatient procedure to place a lead (thin wire) near the tailbone, which is taped to the skin and connected to a small external device that sends mild electrical pulses to the sacral nerves using an external stimulator. The patient typically wears the external stimulator for several days to determine if he/she is likely to benefit from InterStim Therapy.

Outpatient Surgical Implant

Following a successful trial, the InterStim system is implanted under the skin during a minimally invasive procedure. The InterStim system consists of a thin wire lead and a neurostimulator, or pacemaker-like device, as well as external clinician and patient programmers. The neurostimulator, about the size of a stopwatch, is implanted under the skin in a minimally invasive outpatient procedure in the upper buttock near the sacral nerves, which are involved in the control of bladder function. The InterStim system then delivers mild electrical pulses to stimulate the sacral nerves and help manage bladder and bowel incontinence symptoms.


Following the implant procedure, the patient can control the neurostimulation intensity within physician-set parameters using an external patient programmer that works like a remote control to turn the stimulation up and down or on and off. Follow-up examinations usually occur every six to 12 months.