April 23, 2016

Helen Owens feels like she regained control of her life thanks in part to a medical device she had implanted in 2015 by Mankato Clinic Colon and Rectal Surgeon Dr. David Orcutt.

For much of her teaching career, and spanning nearly 15 years, Owens experienced a loss of bowel control, which she attributed to a fibromyalgia diagnosis and possibly Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

“I found out I was allergic to gluten, and if I have gluten, I get horrible diarrhea,” Owens said. “I eliminated gluten from my diet and would still have the same problem. I would go to the bathroom about 10 times a day.”

Owens took an early retirement in hopes that the problem would resolve itself. When it didn’t get better, she knew something had to be done and made an appointment with Dr. Orcutt, who specializes in benign and malignant disease of the colon and rectum. After explaining her history to Dr. Orcutt, Owens was diagnosed with Fecal Incontinence (FI), a problem that affects 18 million Americans.

“It was so frustrating and overwhelming,” Owens said on FI. “Sometimes, after eating, it would be instant that I had to use the bathroom. It was horrendous. All day long I would get the urge to go to the bathroom.”

Dr. Orcutt introduced Owens to the FDA approved treatment InterStim Therapy also called Sacral Nerve Stimulation (SNS).  This has since helped Owens regain bowel control and live a much more normal and comfortable life. The SNS procedure uses an implantable, stopwatch-size device that emits a continuous, mild electrical pulse through a wire to stimulate sacral nerves, which strengthen the pelvic floor muscles and sphincter complex. In February of 2015, Owens had the procedure, which implanted the pacemaker-like device under the skin in her lower back.

“I have more control over my body … it certainly helped me,” Owens said. “My life has improved because now I know when I’m going to have to go to the bathroom. It’s a lot easier because I don’t have that urge to go all the time.”

Owens can’t feel the SNS device and has the ability to set the stimulation herself via a remote control. Additionally, her trips to the bathroom to have a bowel movement have decreased from 10 or more a day to two. She now joins more than 100,000 patients worldwide who have undergone the minimally invasive, reversible procedure.

“With a problem like I had, there’s really no place to turn except for this device,” she said. “That’s how I look at it. If you needed a pacemaker, you get a pacemaker. That’s what this is.”

Dr. Orcutt has been providing the SNS treatment option in Mankato for more than four years. Owens, who lives west of Mankato, said she feels grateful that she didn’t have to travel far to meet with a surgeon who has the ability to provide this much-needed option.

“It’s just wonderful,” she said. “I wouldn’t have wanted to go to Rochester or the Cities, it’s so much better to have it here and with a doctor who’s done many of them.”