ANDERSON — Life has changed for Cassandra Ryle, a 66-year-old Anderson resident who, until two months ago, had to structure her days based on her proximity to the nearest bathroom.
Ryle suffered from an overactive bladder — a diagnosis given to an estimated 33 million Americans, according to the American Urological Association. In July, she underwent a sacral neuromodulation procedure. Anderson urologist Dr. Robert Williams implanted a quarter-sized rechargeable device in her lower back to act as a pacemaker to bridge a faulty nerve connection between Ryle’s bladder and her brain.
“I had bladder issues all my life, so this has been life-changing for me,” she said.
Williams, who estimates he’s done about 200 such procedures over 10 to 15 years, said the device, manufactured by Axonics, is designed to provide therapy for up to 15 years. He added that updated technology in newer devices is proving to be a game changer for many patients.
“This new device has a little more advanced technology and seems to be working better,” he said. “This device is more focused on what we call urge incontinence. We confirm that history and then we do an evaluation including a urinalysis and checking the bladder to make sure it’s emptying and to make sure they don’t have a lot of prolapse.”
Post-implant follow-up therapy is designed to ensure the device is promoting normal communication between the brain and the bladder. Tabs are also kept on the neurostimulator’s battery life, Williams said. Additional procedures, which are rarely necessary, are done on an outpatient basis.
“They go home the same day with a device to help monitor,” he said. “They come back in a week later, and we determine how well it helped, whether we proceed with the next step.”
Ryle said the aftermath of her procedure has been complication-free. One of the most positive changes she’s experienced has been the amount of sleep she’s getting.
“I can sleep four to five hours, and actually last night I slept six, so it’s getting better and better for me,” she said. “I used to sleep an hour and a half to two hours at most.”
But perhaps the most positive byproduct of the surgery, she said, has been the freedom to plan simple events in her life without regard to bladder-related issues.
“I can go walking and not have to worry about, where is the nearest bathroom?” she said. “I can actually go out to eat and not worry about where’s the nearest bathroom, and I don’t have to go to the bathroom before I go somewhere. It’s been wonderful. It really has changed my life.”