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Northwestern Medicine Physicians First in Illinois to Implant Nerve Stimulator to Control Incontinence

Newly FDA-approved device to treat urinary and bowel dysfunction now available in greater Chicago area

CHICAGO — Surgeons at Northwestern Medicine Urogynecology and Reconstructive Pelvic Surgery were recently the first in Illinois to implant a new type of sacral neuromodulator, a small device surgically placed in the pelvic area that restores nerve signals communicating between the brain, bladder and bowel.

The Axonics r-SNM System works by providing gentle electrical stimulation called sacral neuromodulation to the nerves that control the bladder and bowel, restoring normal communication and resulting in an improvement in symptoms. Approximately the size of a quarter, the rechargeable device is implanted into the pelvic area during a minimally invasive, outpatient procedure.

“We are always looking for innovative and effective ways to help our patients suffering from incontinence, and we are seeing great results with this device,” said Margaret Mueller, MD, urogynecologist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. “For these patients, incontinence is caused by the brain not able to read the signal from the bowel or bladder. The sacral neuromodulator provides a gentle stimulation that triggers this signal, eliminating incontinence.”

While sacral neuromodulators are not new, the Axonics device is the first that does not have to be surgically removed if patients need an MRI. It also has a longer battery life than previous devices. The device was recently approved by the U.S. Food &. Drug Administration (FDA) for patients suffering from overactive bladder, urinary retention and fecal incontinence.

The Axonics System is qualified to last 15 or more years in the body eliminating the need for repeat surgeries over the patient’s lifetime. Until today, the only other product available required replacement surgery every four years due to battery depletion and removal of the implanted device if an MRI was required. Patients are provided with a discreet easy to use remote control that can be used to manage their therapy.

“This device is easy to implant, and the results are impressive,” said Kimberly S. Kenton, MD, chief of urogynecology in the department of obstetrics and gynecology, specializing in female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery. “We are excited to offer women throughout the Chicago area and surrounding states this new option for incontinence treatment.”

Northwestern Medicine's urogynecologists offer a transdisciplinary, patient-centered approach to pelvic floor care in the Women’s Integrated Pelvic Health Program where specialists from different disciplines (urogynecology, urology, physical therapy and sexual counseling), work jointly to develop innovative, integrated care plans that move beyond discipline-specific approaches to address common pelvic floor problems.

For more information about Northwestern Medicine, visit news.nm.org/about-northwestern-medicine.html.