Questions and Answers – InterStim Therapy

What is InterStim Therapy?

InterStim Therapy uses an implantable device to send mild electrical pulses to the sacral nerves, located near the tailbone. The sacral nerves control the bladder and muscles related to urination. If the brain and sacral nerves are miscommunicating, the nerves can't tell the bladder to function properly.

The mild electrical pulses from InterStim Therapy regulate the sacral nerves. This helps the brain and the nerves to communicate so the bladder and related muscles can function properly.

InterStim Therapy is an option for managing the symptoms of overactive bladder for people who tried other treatments such as medications and behavioral therapy, and those treatments have not worked or were not well tolerated.

InterStim Therapy is reversible and can be discontinued at any time by turning off or removing the device. 

What do nerves have to do with urination?

The sacral nerves control the bladder and muscles related to urination. A breakdown of communication between the sacral nerves and the brain can lead to problems with storing and voiding urine. 

What are the benefits and potential side effects or complications of sacral neuromodulation?

For many people who suffer from overactive bladder, sacral neuromodulation may reduce symptoms that cannot be adequately treated with treatments like medications or behavioral therapy. InterStim Therapy is reversible and can be discontinued at any time by turning off or removing the device. Unlike other surgical treatment options for OAB, InterStim Therapy starts with an evaluation. During this evalution you can experience how it feels and how it works, prior to going forward with the implant procedure.

Implanting an InterStim Therapy system has risks similar to any surgical procedure, including swelling, bruising, bleeding, and infection. Talk with your doctor about ways to minimize these risks.

Sacral neuromodulation might cause you to experience some of these side effects:

  • Pain at the implant site or new pain 
  • Infection or skin irritation
  • Lead (thin wire) movement/migration
  • Device problems
  • Interactions with certain other devices or diagnostic equipment
  • Undesirable changes in urinary or bowel function
  • Uncomfortable stimulation (sometimes described as a jolting or shocking feeling) 

Problems may be resolved with surgery, medication, or programming. These events may also resolve over time. There is a possibility that some may remain unresolved. See Important Safety Information for possible adverse events. Please consult your doctor. This therapy is not for everyone. A prescription is required.

How long has sacral neuromodulation been around?

InterStim Therapy was FDA-approved in 1997 for urge incontinence and in 1999 for urinary retention and significant symptoms of urgency-frequency. More than 100,000 people worldwide have received InterStim Therapy. It's a proven treatment option for people who have not had success with more conservative OAB treatments.

Can I get an MRI when I have an InterStim system?

Getting an MRI head scan may be possible under specific conditions. For more information, talk with your InterStim doctor.

Where can I get more information?

For more information about InterStim Therapy, visit www.everyday-freedom.com. If you are considering InterStim Therapy as a treatment option, you can also contact a Medtronic Education Specialist at (800) 664-5111. If you are currently receiving InterStim Therapy, contact Medtronic Patient Services at (800) 510-6735.


Information on this site should not be used as a substitute for talking with your doctor. Always talk with your doctor about diagnosis and treatment information.

Last updated: 27 Aug 2012

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If you are not receiving InterStim Therapy, contact a
Medtronic Education Specialist
work (800) 664-5111
If you are receiving InterStim Therapy, contact a
Medtronic Patient Services Specialist
work (800) 510-6735