A pacemaker for the bladder

LOS ANGELES -- (02/25/2020) -- It’s a problem nobody wants to talk about suffering in silence and embarrassment. Of the 25 million Americans living with incontinence, eighty percent are women. A pacemaker for the bladder may be the answer.

It’s a sweet treat today for Melissa DerManouel. It’s so sweet because days like these were few and far between.

“I couldn’t go 20 minutes without having to go to the bathroom,” DerManouel said.

DerManouel suffered for 12 years with overactive bladder.

“If it starts to go, there’s no stopping mechanism,” she explained.
For people like DerManouel, their brains and their bladders don’t communicate correctly.

DerManouel was the first person in the United States to receive the new Axonics sacral neuromodulator, a remote-controlled pacemaker for the bladder.

Felicia Lane, MD, UC Irvine, told Ivanhoe, “Basically we’re reprograming the nerve to the bladder.”

The neuro stimulator is surgically implanted in the lower back, near the third sacral nerve root. A small lead wire delivers electrical impulses to the nerves that regulate bladder control.

“Our bladder can store our urine or hold our urine longer and that we’re not having these involuntary contractions of the bladder that are unwanted,” Lane said.

In previous devices, patients would need a new surgery to replace the stimulator every 4 years when the batteries died. Now, the new stimulator lasts fifteen years and can be charged just by wearing this charger over the area where the device was implanted.

“There’s nothing better than to see a bathroom and just have to walk by and not have to go,” DerManouel described.

Allowing Dermanoel to enjoy her days worry-free.

Sacral neuromodulation is the only FDA approved therapy that can treat both urinary and fecal symptoms with a single solution. Risks include infection after surgery, pain over the stimulator site and if the device moves, it may have to be removed. Right now, the stimulator is only being used for patients who have failed to respond to traditional incontinence treatments.