WVU Medicine offers options for patients with urinary incontinence

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Urinary incontinence is an embarrassing condition that can affect both men and women. The causes vary and require different approaches to treatment. The WVU Medicine urogynecology team has an option for patients whose urinary incontinence is related to the nervous system.

Robert Shapiro, M.D.
Robert Shapiro, MD

As people age, the sacral nerve roots, which control bladder function, can begin to deliver incorrect signals, causing urgency and incontinence. Sacral neuromodulation works by providing more regular signaling to the sacral nerve roots, helping the patient have more regular and predictable urination.

“This treatment really is life changing for a lot of women,” Robert Shapiro, MD, WVU Medicine urogynecologist, said. “Women who couldn’t go out of the house or perform their activities of daily living can now lead practically a normal life going four to six hours without having to use the bathroom. They no longer have to fear having an accident in public.”

This technology has evolved in recent years, allowing surgeons to perform this procedure through much smaller, usually one centimeter, incisions. Surgeons place a lead through the patient’s back using fluoroscopic guidance, allowing for a micro-invasive procedure. The device is then controlled externally using a smartphone.

“There are some common misconceptions about this being back surgery or concerns about the incisions going through the spine, but that’s not the case,” Dr. Shapiro said. “The guide wires just go down and facilitate the nervous system function, which is the biggest fear patients have with the procedure. Our patients are quite comfortable after the procedure and recover easily.”

The same procedure can also provide relief for men and patients suffering from fecal incontinence.

“It is one of the better treatments for neurogenic or neurological fecal incontinence that we have,” Shapiro said. “We’re not entirely sure why, but stimulating the sacral nerve roots help patients gain control of their bowel function as well.”

To see a video about sacral neuromodulation, visit www.youtube.com/watch?v=I5bkIz95WQE.

For more information on WVU Medicine, visit WVUMedicine.org.