Health Beat: The incontinence implant for kids

Bladder Matters

It's not a problem usually associated with kids, but thousands of kids suffer from urinary incontinence every day, doctors said. For some, traditional treatments don't work, but there's a new technology being used on them that could help.

Incontinence can cause embarrassment and even pain for children, but a new implant is dramatically improving their lives.

Take 9-year-old Kate Lamons, for example. She couldn't control her bladder during the day, and that led to some embarrassing situations.

"At school, she was changing clothes, underwear constantly because it was always wet," said Ashli Lamons, Kate's mother.

Ashli said behavioral therapies and medications didn't help Kate's urinary incontinence. 

So, Dr. John Pope, professor of urologic surgery and pediatrics at Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt, decided to try what's called the InterStim.

It's an implantable device that helps control the bladder.

"The wire would come in… from the back and lay right up beside that nerve and stimulate that nerve only," Pope explained

The device stimulates the sacral nerve coming from the spine that helps control bladder muscles.  With a remote, Kate and her mom can increase or decrease the strength as needed.

"It just feels like something is kind of vibrating," said Kate, who's had the device for more than a year now, and she hasn't had an embarrassing situation at school since. "I was so excited because I got to take home all of my clothes, extra clothes that I had in my locker."

The InterStim is FDA-approved for adults. Pope is using it off label for his pediatric patients. He's one of the few doctors in the U.S. doing so, having implanted the device in 17 children. Almost all of them have had positive results, he said.

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