Electrical Stimulation for Urinary Incontinence
Electrical stimulation is used to treat urinary incontinence by sending a mild electric current to nerves in the lower back or the pelvic muscles that are involved in urination.
You may be able to provide electrical stimulation therapy at home using a unit with a vaginal or anal electrode. Timing and duration of therapy varies. For example, your treatment may consist of 12 weeks during which you have 15-minute stimulation sessions twice a day. This kind of stimulation has been used for both urge and stress incontinence.
How vaginal or anal electrical stimulation works is not well understood. The stimulation may make the muscles contract, producing an effect similar to Kegel exercises, which strengthen the muscles by contracting them frequently. The stimulation may also encourage the growth of nerve cells that cause the muscles to contract.
Sacral nerve stimulation (SNS) has been used for severe urge incontinence or overactive bladder that hasn't been helped by other treatment. In SNS, the doctor puts an electrical stimulator under your skin above your buttocks. This stimulator looks like a pacemaker. It is attached to electrodes that send pulses to a nerve in your lower back (sacrum). The sacral nerve plays a role in bladder storage and emptying.
Why It Is Done
Electrical stimulation may be used to treat:
How Well It Works
Vaginal or anal electrical stimulation has been tried mostly in women who have urge, stress, and mixed incontinence. There is some research that it can help reduce how often women have incontinence.1 Anal electrical stimulation has been tried in men. But there is no evidence that it works.
Sacral nerve stimulation (SNS) has improved urge urinary incontinence and overactive bladder in more than half the people who try it.2
Vaginal or anal electrical stimulation can cause pain, tenderness, and bleeding.
The risks of sacral nerve stimulation include:
What To Think About
Before trying electrical stimulation for urinary incontinence, talk to your doctor about the following:
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