incontinence2 Incontinence is a silent thief that robs its victims of their ability to live life to the fullest: bowel incontinence. Also known as fecal incontinence (FI), it prevents people from participating in enjoyed activities, causes social isolation and can even lead to loss of employment. It is believed to be the leading cause of nursing home admission, especially for women. Often, people who suffer from FI believe it is a normal part of aging, but they are wrong. St. Luke’s University Health Network offers many treatments that help people regain control.

“Thousands of people right here in our community suffer needlessly from FI,” says gastroenterologist Berhanu Geme, MD. “Treatment options range from diet modification and exercise to advanced surgical techniques.” Bowel incontinence can vary from an occasional leakage to complete loss of bowel control. The condition is more common in women over the age of 65. It can result from chronic constipation, diarrhea, advanced age or damage to the pelvic floor and its nerves during childbirth.

“At St. Luke’s Gastroenterology Specialists, we begin our evaluation by reviewing your medical history, conducting a thorough physical examination and ordering tests that evaluate the bowel, rectum and supporting muscles. Based on the results, we design a treatment plan to meet your specific needs.” Dr. Geme encourages patients who fail to respond to medical treatment and lifestyle modifications alone to consider referral to a colorectal surgeon for surgical interventions.

Among the more advanced and successful surgical interventions available is sacral nerve stimulation (SNS). Colorectal surgeon Camille Eyvazzadeh, MD, was the first in the region to perform the InterStim® Therapy procedure for bowel control at St. Luke’s University Hospital in Bethlehem. The minimally invasive procedure involves the insertion of a neurostimulator in the lower back that works by sending mild electrical pulses to the sacral nerves to control bowel, rectum and bladder function.
Also performing the procedure are Dr. Eyvazzadeh’s colleagues, Drs. W. Terence Reilly, Daniel J. Bowers, and Daniel J. Eyvazzadeh, who joined the practice after completing fellowship at the University of Minnesota, one of the leading programs in the use of the device for fecal incontinence in the United States.

“This outpatient procedure can be performed in less than an hour under mild sedation,” says Dr. Eyvazzadeh. “It involves the insertion of InterStim, a neurostimulator device that is inserted under the skin, usually in the upper buttocks. Before they can have the procedure, patients are asked to keep a diary of their bowel incontinence and then are placed on a test trial to ensure the treatment is appropriate for them.

“Fecal incontinence is not only embarrassing, but also can affect a person’s emotional well-being and limit daily activities and social interactions,” says Dr. Eyvazzadeh. Both Drs. Geme and Eyvazzadeh see patients in Bethlehem, Allentown and Coaldale. In addition, Dr. Eyvazzadeh sees patients in Easton and Phillipsburg. For more information about these doctors or to schedule an appointment, please call St. Luke’s InfoLink at 1-866-STLUKES (785-8537) or visit St. Luke’s University Health Network’s website.

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