Ron, age 44, had been living with urinary retention since 1994. To empty his bladder, he needed to use a catheter. "You can't imagine how difficult it is to set up a catheter kit and keep everything sterile in a men's public restroom," he says.
At first, Ron only needed to catheterize himself at bedtime, because he could still go if he really concentrated. Gradually, though, he lost the ability to empty his bladder and needed to "cath" (use a catheter) all the time. It affected all his plans. "I'd always have to think about how many hours I'd be away from home and whether or not I'd have to cath while I was out." He kept a catheter kit in the pocket of all his jackets just in case. But cathing in public was such a hassle that he began staying home more and more.
"I'm from northern Minnesota and I love to be outdoors," he says, "but boating and fishing became difficult and embarrassing." Though he loved to travel, the schedule uncertainties made it too difficult. Besides, he says, "I practically would have needed an extra suitcase to carry all my cathing supplies." Aside from the cathing, the urinary retention also caused many bladder infections.
Ron's doctor had him try a variety of medications, but they didn't help and they gave him headaches. The first time his doctor suggested a neurostimulator, Ron was still able to go on his own sometimes, so he didn't think he needed it. But by the spring of 2007, he couldn't go at all without cathing, so he began to consider a neurostimulator. He says, "I didn't really have a lot of faith in the device, but because it was reversible, I decided to try it."
In August 2007, Ron had his trial assessment. At first he didn't see any improvement. It began to work after 10 to 14 days, and he urinated normally for the first time in many months. He had his implant surgery in September 2007. During the next 3 to 4 weeks, he worked with his clinician to adjust the settings for optimum results. He continued to cath and check residuals until November when they found the best programming. Ron still caths occasionally to make sure he's emptying fully, but since November, his residuals have been normal.
Now Ron has no worries about leaving the house. "I can go places on a whim, and if I have to go," he says, "I can just use the urinal instead of carrying my catheter equipment." He goes about six times per day, and he hasn't had any bladder infections. For Ron, the best part of sacral nerve stimulation is that he can travel again, whether on road trips to his family's cabin or overseas. Next summer, he's going to Norway, Germany, and Holland, a trip Ron says "wouldn't be possible without an InterStim® neurostimulator."
This story recounts the experience of one patient who is receiving sacral nerve stimulation for the treatment of urinary retention. Medtronic invited him to share his story candidly. Please bear in mind that the experiences are specific to this particular person. Results vary; not every response is the same. Talk to your doctor to determine if sacral nerve stimulation is right for you. In addition to risks related to a medical procedure, complications from this therapy can include pain, infection, sensation of electrical shock, device problems, undesirable change in voiding function, and lead migration, among others.
This story reflects one person's experience. Not every person will receive the same results. Talk to your doctor about your treatment options.