A pacemaker-like device which has been in use for more than a decade to treat urinary incontinence can also help to cure bowel incontinence, or loss of bowel control, researchers have found.
The device is called InterStim Therapy and is manufactured by Medtronic.
The first person in the United States to receive the device since its approval as a treatment for bowel incontinence has seen her symptoms improve, said the doctors treating her.
The operation took place on June 14 at the University of Rochester Medical Centre and was performed by Dr. Jenny Speranza, an associate professor of colorectal surgery at the centre.
For some patients, the device cures their incontinence, allowing them to regain full bowel control.
Several studies conducted prior to the Food and Drug Administration's approval showed that between 40 and 50 percent of patients who received it regained full control.
The FDA approved the device to treat bowel incontinence in April.
"Loss of bowel control can be devastating, in many cases significantly disrupting daily life," LiveScience quoted Dr Speranza as telling My Health News Daily.
Severity of bowel incontinence can range from occasional leakage of stool to complete loss of control over bowel movements, according to the National Institutes of Health.
The condition can be caused by damage to the nerves or muscles due to trauma, surgery, a tumor, radiation treatments or childbirth.
The device, about the size of a stopwatch, constantly emits electrical pulses to stimulate the nerves that control the bowel or bladder.
These pulses help to strengthen muscles that regulate bowel functions, including the sphincter muscles.