Published on December 13, 2019

ProHealth Care is the first in the state to offer advanced wireless therapy for women with incontinence

ProHealth Care is the first health care system in Wisconsin to use an advanced wireless therapy to help women who experience incontinence better manage the condition.

Axonics Therapy sacral neuromodulation device

Clockwise from upper left: The Axonics Therapy sacral neuromodulation device for bowel and urinary urgency incontinence includes a miniaturized rectangular neurostimulator that is placed under the patient’s skin in the lower back, a handheld remote, a round battery recharging system and a small square wireless receiver for the charger.

Urgency urinary incontinence, sometimes called urge incontinence, is a sudden, intense urge to urinate followed by an involuntary loss of urine. Bowel incontinence is involuntary leaking of stool.

According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, urinary incontinence affects twice as many women as men due to pregnancy, childbirth and menopause. More than four in 10 women 65 and older have urinary incontinence. Bowel incontinence is also common in older adults.

"Patients who experience urgency urinary incontinence or bowel incontinence often limit their activities, which affects quality of life and can be socially isolating," said Sarit Aschkenazi, MD, a urogynecologist with ProHealth Medical Group. "Wireless sacral neuromodulation therapy is for patients who have already tried lifestyle changes, physical therapy and medication."

The therapy uses a stimulator implanted under the patient's skin on one side of the lower back to provide discrete, imperceptible and continuous electrical pulses that help the patient maintain bladder and bowel continence. The device gently stimulates sacral nerves in the pelvis that control the pelvic floor muscles, sphincter, bladder and lower bowel.

A non-surgical trial of the therapy is conducted first. Once it is confirmed that the therapy is efficiently treating urgency and incontinence symptoms, the stimulator is implanted during a short surgical procedure. The patient uses a small handheld, programmed remote to adjust the strength of the stimulation.

Wireless stimulation therapy implants for incontinence have been in use for two decades. Advances in the new device are:

  • A pocket-sized handheld remote that is 60% smaller than previous implant remotes.
  • FDA-approved magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) compatibility.
  • A longer-lasting, 15-year rechargeable battery using wireless technology.

Dr. Aschkenazi said that in the past, the implant was not MRI compatible. Patients expecting to need MRI imaging would often opt out of this treatment. In addition, the prior device was not rechargeable and had a life span of about five years.

Leona Joslyn of Waukesha began the therapy in November and is very pleased with it.

"I have a lot of symptoms that go along with bladder problems," she said. "Before I had the implant I was really going through a lot of bladder protection products.

"I don't feel anything at the current setting on the implant, but I have a little device to turn up or down the strength of the signal," she said.

Leona said the device is easy to recharge – it requires recharging for one hour about every two weeks. She’s pleased to know that it can stay in place during an MRI.

"It's so easy,” she said. “I kept waiting for the next good thing to come out, and this is one of them.”

ProHealth Care providers work with insurance companies to help provide documentation needed for coverage of incontinence treatment.

For information about treating incontinence, contact ProHealth Care’s Women’s Health Services at 262-928-2594.

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