Sacral Nerve Stimulation for Colorectal Disorders

Sacral nerve stimulation is a reversible treatment alternative for patients with rectal incontinence or constipation when other treatments provide unsatisfactory relief or are not tolerated well.

The Pediatric Colorectal Surgery Program at the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital is one of only a few programs in the country with the experience and expertise to effectively asses a child for placement of a sacral nerve stimulator.

What is sacral nerve stimulation?

Sacral nerve stimulation involves electrical stimulation of the nerves that control the rectum and rectal nerve and muscle complex.

Nerve stimulation can address symptoms of:

  • Intractable constipation - inability to pass a spontaneous bowel movement despite use of multiple medical therapies
  • Incontinence - injury to the rectal sphincteric complex, including incontinence from previous trauma or colorectal surgeries, or in some cases of congenital problems of the anal canal

Sacral nerve stimulation therapy uses a small device (a neurotransmitter), similar to a pacemaker, that is implanted under the skin in the upper buttock area. The device sends mild electrical impulses through a lead that is positioned close to a nerve located in the lower back (the sacral nerve), which can positively influence the rectal sphincters and pelvic floor muscles.

Is my child a candidate for sacral nerve stimulation?

Sacral nerve stimulation is considered for patients with refractory rectal incontinence or constipation, for which other therapies have not worked or have not been tolerated well by the child.

Our multidisciplinary colorectal disorders team will evaluate your child and his medical history to determine if sacral nerve stimulation could be an effective part of his treatment plan.  As part of this evaluation, your child’s stooling history and prior treatments will be reviewed.  In some cases, additional studies may be required before recommending placement of a sacral nerve stimulator.

If your child is determined to be a candidate for sacral nerve stimulator therapy, our team will work closely with you to familiarize your family with the procedure and follow-up care.  We will also ask that you keep a detailed record of your child’s bowel habits for two weeks prior to surgery to assist with comparison of bowel function after the procedures.

What does sacral nerve stimulation involve?

The procedure is performed in two stages, which allows our team to assess improvement in bowel function before implanting the actual device.  Both procedures are outpatient procedures performed under general anesthesia by a team of surgeons specially trained in sacral nerve stimulator placement.  Download our patient guide to sacral nerve stimulator procedures.

After the placement of the device, your child will receive follow-up care from our Colorectal Disorders team to maximize the benefits of the device and support your child.

Our focus is on ensuring your child has the highest quality of life, starting with their first appointment with us, during treatment, and throughout their childhood to support ongoing activities of daily living.


Discover the Michigan Difference in pediatric colorectal surgical care.

For more information or to make an appointment, call 1-877-475-MOTT (1-877-475-6688).