Sacral Nerve Stimulation (SNS)

Sacral Nerve Stimulation (SNS), also known as Sacral Neuromodulation, is a cutting-edge treatment for patients suffering from a variety of bladder and bowel control issues, including overactive bladder, non-obstructive urinary retention, and fecal incontinence. This innovative therapy involves the electrical stimulation of the sacral nerves, which play a critical role in regulating the bladder, bowel, and pelvic floor muscles.

What is Sacral Nerve Stimulation (SNS)?

Sacral Nerve Stimulation is a therapeutic approach that uses a small, implantable device to send mild electrical pulses to the sacral nerves, located near the tailbone. These nerves are essential for controlling the bladder and muscles involved in bowel movements. By modulating these nerve impulses, SNS can significantly improve or completely alleviate symptoms of incontinence and certain types of pelvic floor dysfunction.

How Does SNS Work?

The sacral nerves are responsible for signaling the bladder to contract and release urine at the appropriate times. In patients with bladder and bowel control issues, these signals are often disrupted. SNS works by delivering electrical pulses to these nerves, helping to restore normal communication between the bladder, bowel, and brain.

This process is believed to correct dysfunctional reflex patterns that cause incontinence and retention problems.

Who Can Benefit from SNS?

SNS is typically considered for individuals who have not responded to more conservative treatments, such as medication, pelvic floor exercises, or dietary changes. Ideal candidates include those with:

  • Severe overactive bladder (OAB)
  • Urinary retention that is not caused by an obstruction
  • Fecal incontinence Patients undergo a trial stimulation period before permanent device implantation to assess the effectiveness of the therapy in managing their symptoms.

The SNS Procedure

The SNS procedure is performed in two stages:

  1. Trial Phase: A temporary electrode is placed near the sacral nerve through a minimally invasive procedure. This electrode is connected to an external stimulator, allowing the patient to experience SNS without having a permanent implant. If the trial successfully reduces symptoms, the patient can opt for the permanent implant.
  2. Permanent Implantation: This involves surgically placing a permanent stimulator device under the skin, usually in the upper buttock area. The device, similar in size to a pacemaker, sends regular electrical pulses to the sacral nerve through a lead (a special type of wire).

Benefits of SNS

  • Improved Quality of Life: Many patients experience a significant reduction in incontinence episodes, leading to improved confidence and daily functioning.
  • Non-Destructive: Unlike some surgical options, SNS is reversible and does not involve cutting or removing body tissue.
  • Adjustable and Reversible: The stimulation settings can be adjusted to meet the patient’s needs, and the device can be turned off or removed if necessary.

Potential Risks and Complications

As with any surgical procedure, SNS carries potential risks, including infection, lead migration, device malfunction, and discomfort at the implant site. However, serious complications are rare, and most issues can be resolved with minor adjustments or procedures.

Recovery and What to Expect

After the implantation, patients may experience mild discomfort and are usually advised to avoid strenuous activities for a few weeks. The device settings may be adjusted during follow-up visits to optimize symptom control.
Patients can typically return to their normal activities with significantly improved symptom management.


Sacral Nerve Stimulation offers hope for individuals with severe urinary and fecal incontinence, for whom other treatments have failed. By directly addressing the nerve pathways involved in bladder and bowel control, SNS can significantly improve the quality of life for those living with these challenging conditions.

If you or someone you know is struggling with incontinence, consult a healthcare provider to discuss whether SNS could be an appropriate treatment option.