Urinary incontinence is a very common problem, affecting about 1/3 of women. Some women may leak, while others may have urinary urgency, or increased frequency. Some women may only leak while coughing, laughing, running, jumping, or during intercourse. This is known as Stress Urinary Incontinence. Other women may experience leakage or urgency at random times throughout the day or night. This is called Urge Urinary Incontinence. Some women may have a mixture of both. There are treatment options for both types of urinary incontinence.
Axonics is a neuromodulator therapy that regulates the nerves that control the bladder. While the Bladder Sling is typically used to treat Stress Urinary Incontinence, Axonics treats Urge Incontinence. One way to think about it is as a “pacemaker” for the bladder, to prevent your bladder from leaking or making you urinate frequently. This is a procedure typically reserved for patients who have already tried medicine to control their urinary symptoms and did not experience improvement, or were unable to tolerate the side effects of the medicine.
One of the advantages of considering Axonics is that you get a “trial run.” A thin wire attached to the Axonics device is temporarily placed near your sacral nerves and you get to go home for a few days with the device taped to your skin. You will be given a form to keep track of your urinary symptoms to see if Axonics can make a difference for you. If it improves your symptoms, you can choose to have Axonics implanted surgically. If it doesn’t help your symptoms, the temporary wire is removed and there are no long-term effects. Axonics works by sending signals to the bladder through nerves that are located just below the skin in the lower back area. The bladder is an interesting organ that requires a constant signal from the brain to stay relaxed. When that signal gets disrupted, the bladder will contract uncontrollably resulting in urinary frequency and/or incontinence. Axonics works like a pacemaker for the bladder by sending a signal to the bladder to stay relaxed.
There are two steps to the Axonics procedure. The first step is the “test”. The test involves placing a tiny wire near the appropriate nerve and attaching this wire to a small stimulator worn on your belt for up to one week. This procedure should take no longer than 10-15 minutes and is performed in our office. Based on improvement from the test, patients continue on to the second step: implant. The Axonics implant is about the size of a book of matches and is implanted well beneath the skin of the upper buttock. When implanted, it provides up to seven years of continuous stimulation. Amazing results have been seen with this simple procedure. We have seen patients go from using the bathroom every hour to now going once every 3-4 hours through the day and not even getting up at night at all to use the restroom. It has been life-changing for many patients! Axonics has recently been approved for use with women who suffer from fecal incontinence. Axonics is one of the few treatments available for people who suffer from this condition. Please call us if you would like more information.