Helpful Hints

How to Prepare for Interstim Surgery

Recently, I had surgery to implant a battery into my back. This connects to a wire that stimulates my sacral nerve. This process of getting to this point was extensive. I started with PTNS, which is nerve stimulation that goes through your foot. After having success with a few trials, my best option was to move forward with Interstim surgery. I had no idea how to prepare for this. I decided to jot down a few ideas here. I hope you find them helpful.

  • Track Symptoms

I saw my surgeon only a day or two before surgery. At that point, they asked how my symptom tracking was going. I don’t know how I missed the memo but I hadn’t been symptom tracking. In the long run, I don’t think this hurt my trial but it’s important. If you don’t track your symptoms beforehand, it may be difficult to tell if the device is working well. This surgery isn’t always 100% effective. Knowing what percentage of improvement you’re making is vital.

  • The Sensation

The feeling of nerve stimulation is difficult to explain. Sometimes it feels like fluttering or tapping. Other times, I don’t feel it at all. You have to find the sweet spot between maximum effect and comfort. It took me a few different settings and levels until I found it. That was the nice part about week one, it was all about trialing what worked for me. My team was very helpful in guiding me as to how to best use the device.

  • The Restrictions

I was not prepared for the restrictions when I signed on for this surgery. It’s six weeks of very limited physical activity. For six weeks, you are not supposed to lift anything over ten pounds. That meant a full stop of exercise. No running, no biking, no activity that could jostle the device or wire. I am only five weeks out and I’m itching to get back to working out. I put this on the list because I needed to mentally prepare for this.

  • Effectiveness

Like I mentioned earlier, it’s not always 100% effective. When going into surgery, I think everyone hopes it will solve all of their problems. For some people, it does. The first few days I had no more leaking. It felt like magic. Then, as I became more mobile, I had little drops here and there. They weren’t big leaks. I didn’t need to intervene but it felt discouraging. You have to hold on to the progress. It’s so important to remember where you started and not get frustrated with the process. It’s difficult but so worth it.

  • The Battery

There are a couple things to say about the battery. First, I got an option about which battery I wanted. They didn’t tell me this until minutes before surgery. I had to make a choice on the spot. To avoid this, I’d ask your surgery team if there are two battery options. Second, if you go through with the second surgery, you will have a battery in your back. I know you’re saying to yourself, “duh that’s the point.” What I mean is, you can feel the battery in your back. It’s not uncomfortable but if you move or roll in certain ways, it can be uncomfortable. My battery is smaller than the average one and I still can’t lay on my back on hard surfaces in different positions. It’s not a deal breaker by any means but it’s something to be aware of.

I could write another whole article on how to prepare but these are some initial thoughts. Feel free to reach out on Instagram or Facebook if you have questions. This surgery was a difficult decision for me. It had a lot of implications about the future. I chose to do it because it was the last intervention option. I’m so grateful I took the leap. It has improved my symptoms so much! I’d highly recommend having a conversation with your physician if you’re interested in it.

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