Mary Hamline used to plan her day around how fast she could find a restroom. Hamline, 75, suffered for nearly four years from an overactive bladder, and its most common symptom of the sudden need or urge to urinate.
“It was at a point where I had to use the restroom every 15 or 20 minutes,” she said. “I live in Lincoln, 25 miles from Sedalia, so even a trip there meant I needed a plan. I was constantly worrying about where I could stop anywhere I went.”
According to the Urology Care Foundation, as many as 30% of men and 40% of women in the United States live with overactive bladder symptoms like frequent urgency or leakage. The number may be even higher because many people living with the symptoms may be embarrassed or don’t think there is treatment that can help.
After taking medications and facing a possible hysterectomy, Hamline heard from a friend about Dr. Michael Carozza, a gynecological specialist at Bothwell OB/GYN Associates. After evaluating Hamline, he recommended the InterStim system, a bladder pacemaker that restores communication between the bladder and the brain. Carozza joined the Bothwell medical team in 2019 and, after going through special training, started doing the procedure about nine months ago.
“Overactive bladder is caused by premature, spontaneous and repetitive bladder contractions that can lead to urinary leakage,” Carozza said. “It is primarily a disorder that responds to medical management, but sometimes the contractions can be resistant to medicines. These are the times when InterStim may be beneficial.”
After an initial evaluation and wearing the device externally for about a month, Carozza implanted the neurostimulator internally near Hamline’s hip. The device delivers electronic stimulation to the nerve that helps calm the bladder and controls the spasms that tell the brain it’s time to urinate.
“When I wore the device externally, I kept track of how much I was voiding and how it was helping,” Hamline said. “At first, I had to get used to the fluttering feeling, but now I’m used to it and don’t notice it all.”
Hamline controls the device through a cell phone that has the device’s program on it.
“If I feel like I need to adjust it, I can turn it up, down or off,” she said. “I’m thrilled with it, it’s working very well.”
From the initial evaluation to the follow-up, patients are seen a total of five times. It is an outpatient procedure with minimal anesthesia, and patients go home the same day. Carozza said the majority of his patients who have had the InterStim device implanted are women who have been post-menopausal for about 10 or 15 years, yet he has treated others suffering from an overactive bladder and is the only physician in the area offering the procedure.
“I want people to know that having an overactive bladder, while fairly common, is not a normal part of getting older, being a woman or having a prostate issue, and it is treatable,” he said. “By offering the InterStim procedure in my practice, people don’t have to travel far for this treatment. The technology is safe and has been around since 1998. In the newest version, the batteries can last up to 15 years.”
Hamline hopes others suffering from symptoms like hers take her experience to heart and has recommended Carozza to several friends.
“I do hope it helps other people,” she said. “The whole team has been very professional and very helpful. Dr. Carozza is so personable and has a great bedside manner. At my age, I wasn’t ready for a hysterectomy. He really listened to me, and that’s a big thing for me. He was a godsend.”
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