What is fecal incontinence?

Fecal incontinence, also called bowel incontinence, is the inability to control bowel movements, causing stool (feces) to leak unexpectedly from the rectum.  Fecal incontinence ranges from occasional leakage to complete loss of bowel control.  There are many causes of fecal incontinence.  An effective treatment for most causes is sacral nerve stimulation (or InterStim).

InterStim Therapy for Fecal Incontinence

The InterStim Therapy for Fecal Incontinence is a treatment for chronic bowel incontinence.  This therapy delivers mild electrical impulses to the sacral nerves, located near the tailbone and rectum.  These electrical impulses target miscommunication of nerve activity between the brain and rectum that may be causing fecal incontinence symptoms.  By stabilizing the nerve communication, the InterStim System gives the brain improved control over the bowel and anal sphincter muscles.

The InterStim System Treatment Pathway

3 Simple Steps:

1. Evaluation

You will begin with an exam at Centers for Gastroenterology in Loveland.  If Dr. North determines you are a good candidate for sacral neuromodulation therapy, a separate appointment will be made at Skyline Endoscopy Center for the InterStim System evaluation.  At Skyline Endoscopy Center, two temporary leads (thin wires) will be placed near your tailbone and connected to a small external device that sends mild electrical impulses to the sacral nerves.  You will wear the temporary external stimulator on your waistband for a week to determine if the stimulation of the sacral nerves may provide long-term relief for your fecal incontinence.  You will be provided with instructions on how to track and document your symptoms while you are wearing this temporary device.

2. Outpatient Surgical Implant

If the evaluation using the temporary stimulator is successful, you may choose to receive the more permanent implantable system, a procedure which is performed by a surgeon.

3. Post-Implant Follow-up

Using an external patient programmer remote control, you will be given control over the neurostimulation intensity, with physician-set boundaries.  You will follow-up with Dr. North as needed to monitor the therapy’s effectiveness.


  1. Significantly improved bowel control and quality of life in most patients.
  2. Ability to assess the therapy’s effectiveness with a short-term evaluation period before proceeding with a permanent implant.
  3. The minimally invasive treatment is reversible and can be discontinued at any time.  Your physician may turn off or remove the device.
  4. Covered by Medicare and most private insurance companies.

For more information visit the InterStim Therapy for Fecal Incontinence webpage.