Q: How does the bladder stimulator work?

A: The Implanted Bladder Stimulator allows you to control your bladder using an electrical device. This system includes a stimulator that is placed under the skin of your belly that is similar to a heart pacemaker.

Wires are attached to the stimulator and pass under the skin of your belly to the spine. A spinal operation called a laminectomy is performed that allows all the nerves that carry information to and from the spinal cord to the bladder to be seen.

The wires from the stimulator are carefully attached to the nerves using special cuffs designed for this purpose. To allow the stimulator to get complete control over the bladder the sensory nerves from the spinal cord to the bladder are cut. This is called a rhizotomy.

After the operation is complete and the wounds healed the patient uses a small hand held device similar to a television remote, to turn the bladder stimulator on and off.

Q: Can anyone use this approach?

A: Not everyone can use this approach. In order to use the bladder stimulator the person must be able to transfer onto a toilet. They must also have a reflexive bladder, one that squeezes when it gets full.

 

Q: Are many people using this approach?

A: The bladder stimulator surgical approach to bladder management is quite sophisticated. It is used by over 1000 people in Europe and about a hundred and fifty more in the U.S. The FDA approved this approach in 2001. Most insurance companies will pay for the costs of installation and management.

 

Q: Are there any problems with using this bladder management approach??

A: The biggest problem with this approach is that it requires a fairly major operation to implant the device. Generally people are hospitalized for 4 days for the implant and need to be off their usual routine for about 2 weeks.

The implants are done only in a couple of centers in the United States so the person with the implant needs to travel to have the device implanted.

The rhizotomy will generally eliminate the personís ability to have an orgasm or an erection in response to sexual stimulation if these were still possible after the spinal cord injury.