Fecal Incontinence, also known as Accidental Bowel Leakage (ABL), affects tens of millions of people in the United States each year. ABL is the unintentional loss of gas, liquid or solid stool not associated with temporary sickness. This form of incontinence occurs primarily among older people and slightly more often in women.
Unfortunately, studies show that less than 50% of people speak up about their symptoms. If you are experiencing loss of bowel control, contact us for a consultation to discuss your treatment options.
Frequently Asked Questions:
What are common causes for fecal incontinence?
- Muscle and/or nerve damage due to childbirth
- Spine or pelvic trauma
- Surgery or radiation treatments
- Effects of medications such as regular or long-term use of laxatives
- Health conditions such as Crohn’s Disease, Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or neurologic conditions such as Multiple Sclerosis.
What are symptoms associated with accidental bowel leakage?
- Intense urge to rush to the bathroom
- Accidents without warning
- Frequent bowel movements
- Diarrhea and/or constipation
How is fecal incontinence/ABL treated?
Mild problems may be addressed with dietary changes or constipating medications. Strengthening the pelvic floor through Kegel squeezes can also improve symptoms.
Some patients will benefit from biofeedback training to learn to sense the stool and strengthen the muscles to control the problem. In biofeedback training, an EMG sensor connected to a computer provides a visual display of the patient’s efforts to control pelvic floor muscles. Over the course of the biofeedback training sessions, the patient then learns to isolate the appropriate muscles, typically resulting in an improvement in incontinent episodes. Biofeedback can also be used to improve awareness of stool in the rectum or anal canal.
Physicians who specialize in the treatment of ABL may also prescribe disposable rectal inserts or a long-term vaginal insert called the Eclipse system. They may also offer an office-based procedure to bulk the anal canal, or an outpatient surgery to place a pacemaker for the pelvic floor called sacral neuromodulation, or Interstim. More invasive surgical options may be offered if these treatments do not resolve symptoms.
If a separation in the muscle is found during assessment of a patient, surgery to repair these muscles may be considered. Sphincteroplasty is the surgical procedure that repairs the defect in the muscles that control continence. It involves “overlapping” the normal muscle to repair the defect, hopefully resulting in improved bowel control.