To assess the etiology, treatment, and utility of anal ultrasound in men with fecal incontinence and to review the outcomes of conservative (nonoperative) treatment.Summary Background Data
The etiology of fecal incontinence in women is almost exclusively from obstetric or iatrogenic surgical injuries resulting in damage to the anal sphincters and/or pudendal nerves. Corresponding data on men with fecal incontinence are sparse.Methods
Between January 1995 and January 1998, 37 men with fecal incontinence were evaluated in the John Radcliffe Hospital anorectal ultrasound unit. Their clinical histories, anal ultrasound results, anorectal physiology studies, and responses to conservative therapy were reviewed.Results
Median age was 57 years. Major incontinence was present in 27% of the patients. Anal ultrasound localized anal sphincter damage in nine patients, and the characteristics of these nine patients with sphincter damage were then compared with the remaining 28 without sphincter damage. Prior anal surgery was more common in patients with sphincter damage. Hemorrhoids were more common in patients without sphincter damage. Anorectal physiology studies revealed significantly lower mean maximum resting and squeeze pressures in patients with sphincter damage, confirming poor sphincter function. With 92% follow-up, patients without sphincter damage were more likely to improve with nonoperative therapy.Conclusions
Anal ultrasound is extremely useful in the evaluation of fecal incontinence in men. Unlike women, the majority of men do not have a sphincter defect by anal ultrasound, and conservative management is usually successful in these patients. In contrast, in men with anal sphincter damage, almost all of these defects resulted from previous anal surgery. Conservative management rarely is successful in these cases, and surgical repair of the anal sphincter may be indicated. Therefore, because the presence or absence of sphincter damage on anal ultrasound usually predicts the response to nonoperative treatment, anal ultrasound should be used to guide the initial management of men with fecal incontinence.