Transcutaneous Electrical Tibial Nerve Stimulation in the Treatment of Fecal Incontinence: A Randomized Trial (Consort 1a)

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OBJECTIVES:The objective of this study was to show that although transcutaneous electrical tibial nerve stimulation (TENS) is being increasingly used to treat fecal incontinence (FI), its efficacy has never been proved using controlled trials.METHODS:In this randomized, double-blind, sham-controlled trial, 144 patients aged 30–82 years from nine centers were randomly assigned to receive either active or sham stimulations for 3 months. The primary end point was the response to treatment based on the number of incontinence and urgency episodes. Secondary end points were severity scores, quality of life scores, delay to postpone defecation, patient self-assessment of treatment efficacy, physician assessment of TENS efficacy, anorectal manometry, and adverse events.RESULTS:No statistically significant difference was seen between active and sham TENS in terms of an improvement in the median number of FI/urgency episodes per week. Thirty-four patients (47%) who received the active TENS treatment exhibited a >30% decrease in the FI severity score compared with 19 patients (27%) who received the sham treatment (odds ratio 2.4, 95% confidence interval 1.1–5.1,P=0.02). No differences in delay to postpone defecation, patient self-assessment of treatment efficacy, or anorectal manometry were seen between the two groups. The evaluating physicians rated the active stimulations as more effective than the sham stimulations (P=0.01). One minor therapy-related adverse event was observed (1.5%) (see Supplementary Consort 1b).CONCLUSIONS:We failed to demonstrate any benefit of TENS on our primary end-point.

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