Understanding Testing for Sacral Nerve Stimulation

Cross section of female pelvis showing sacrum, sacral nerves, and bladder.Sacral nerve stimulation helps treat bladder problems caused by diseases of the nervous system. The nerves that help you pass urine may not be working the right way. As a result, you may have trouble holding your urine or emptying your bladder.

Before sacral nerve stimulation is done, you need a trial or test procedure to see if it will work. This is called percutaneous nerve evaluation (PNE). During PNE, the healthcare provider puts temporary electrodes, or leads, in the nerves in your sacrum. The sacrum is the lowest part of your spine. It is connected to your pelvis.

After the leads are placed, the provider connects them to a pulse generator. This external device sends signals to the leads. When you turn it on, it stimulates the nerves in your bladder. It helps you control when you urinate.

Why sacral nerve stimulation is done

PNE is done to see if sacral nerve stimulation may help with your bladder problems. It is often done after other treatments, such as medicine, don’t work.

How testing for sacral nerve stimulation is done

PNE is often done in an outpatient facility. That means you can leave shortly after it is done. During the procedure:

  • You lie face down on an exam table.

  • You are given medicines so you don’t feel any pain. They may also make you sleepy.

  • The healthcare provider finds the right place to put the leads in your sacrum. He or she may use fluoroscopy to do so. It’s a type of X-ray imaging.

  • The provider injects a needle into the correct spot. He or she then puts a lead through the needle.

  • The provider checks that the lead is in the correct place. The needle is removed.

  • The provider tapes the part of the lead outside of your body to your skin. It is then connected to the pulse generator.

Risks of testing for sacral nerve stimulation

  • Movement of the lead

  • Pain

  • Infection