BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVE: Sacral nerve stimulation is effective in the treatment of urinary incontinence and is currently under Food and Drug Administration review in the United States for fecal incontinence. Previous reports have focused primarily on short-term results of sacral nerve stimulation for fecal incontinence. The present study reports the long-term effectiveness and safety of sacral nerve stimulation for fecal incontinence in a large prospective multicenter study.
DESIGN AND METHODS: Patients with fecal incontinent episodes more than twice per week were offered participation in this multicentered prospective trial. Patients showing ≥50% improvement during test stimulation were offered chronic implantation of the InterStim Therapy system (Medtronic; Minneapolis, MN). The aims of the current report were to provide 3-year follow-up data on patients from that study who underwent sacral nerve stimulation and were monitored under the rigors of an Food and Drug Administration-approved investigational protocol.
RESULTS: One hundred thirty-three patients underwent test stimulation with a 90% success rate, of whom 120 (110 females) with a mean age of 60.5 years and a mean duration of fecal incontinence of 7 years received chronic implantation. Mean length of follow-up was 3.1 (range, 0.2–6.1) years, with 83 patients completing all or part of the 3-year follow-up assessment. At 3 years follow-up, 86% of patients (P < .0001) reported ≥50% reduction in the number of incontinent episodes per week compared with baseline and the number of incontinent episodes per week decreased from a mean of 9.4 at baseline to 1.7. Perfect continence was achieved in 40% of subjects. The therapy also improved the fecal incontinence severity index. Sacral nerve stimulation had a positive impact on the quality of life, as evidenced by significant improvements in all 4 scales of the Fecal Incontinence Quality of Life instrument at 12, 24, and 36 months of follow-up. The most common device- or therapy-related adverse events through the mean 36 months of follow-up included implant site pain (28%), paresthesia (15%), change in the sensation of stimulation (12%), and infection (10%). There were no reported unanticipated adverse device effects associated with sacral nerve stimulation therapy.
CONCLUSIONS: Sacral nerve stimulation using InterStim Therapy is a safe and effective treatment for patients with fecal incontinence. These data support long-term safety and effectiveness to 36 months.