“Pacemaker” for the Bladder Treats Incontinence

PLAINVILLE, Conn. (WTNH) — Seventeen to 30 million in this country suffer from some sort of bladder dysfunction. It’s not only embarrassing, but it can also make doing some of the simplest things in life difficult. Thankfully there’s a high tech way to get relief. It’s called the Interstim and it’s helping patients like Laurie Tompkins from Plainville.

Every week, Laurie Tompkins helps feed more than 500 families in the Plainville region through her church’s food pantry.

“I’ve been the director for over six years now and it’s been so rewarding,” Tompkins said. “I just love it.”

But there was something getting in the way of her doing her job.

“I first started having incontinence issues probably about 20 years ago and it’s been ongoing and ongoing,” Tompkins recalled.

She had two surgeries to try and fix the problem. When that didn’t work, she tried medication, but to no avail.

“It got to a point where my bladder would only hold eight ounces of fluid,” Tomkins said.

“Running the food distribution that I do — the food pantry that I run — I have to interact with the people a lot, and I’d have to keep running to the bathroom,” Tompkins said. “Something had to be done.”

That’s when Tompkins’ doctor at The Hospital of Central Connecticut told her about the Interstim device, which works by addressing one possible cause of overactive bladder: Miscommunication between the bladder muscle and the nervous system.

It’s believed that a bladder becomes overactive when the sacral nerves misfire, telling the organ to empty even when there’s nothing in it. The Interstim is implanted underneath the skin in the lower back. It delivers mild stimulation to the sacral nerves, reducing their signals that cause the bladder to contract.

“Right after I had the device implanted, I noticed a difference right away,” Tompkins recalled. “I was able to sleep all night long, because I was getting up two or three times a night — maybe four or five even sometimes.”

Using a remote, Tompkins can turn her Interstim on or off and adjust the stimulation level. For her, the device has given her the peace of mind that she hasn’t experienced in years.

“I couldn’t do anything without having to stop what I was doing and run to the bathroom,” Tompkins said. “It’s really changed my life.”

The Hospital of Central Connecticut is holding an educational session where women can learn more about the causes and treatment options for urinary incontinence

    Understanding Female Urinary Incontinence
    Wednesday, May 18, 6:30 to 7:30 p.m.
    Location: The Hartford HealthCare Cancer Institute at The Hospital of Central Connecticut
    183 North Mountain Road, Conference Rooms A-C, New Britain
    To register, call 1-855-HHC-HERE or visit thocc.org/incontinence

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