A Clinical Approach to Fecal Incontinence


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Abstract

Fecal incontinence is the impaired ability to control gas or stool. It is a disabling and distressing condition. Its exact incidence and prevalence are unknown. It is a disorder about which patients are frequently reluctant to discuss, even with their physician. However, it is a common condition especially in older individuals, where the prevalence has been reported to approach 60%. In women, incontinence reaches 54% as a result of childbirth. Of the patients surgically treated, the female-to-male ratio is 4 to 1. In an epidemiological study to identify its community-based prevalence, the University of Illinois determined fecal incontinence existed in 2.2% of the general population.There is available treatment for fecal incontinence. Many patients improve with conservative treatment (constipating agents, antidiarrheal medications, dietary changes) or with biofeedback. For patients where conservative treatment has failed, surgical treatment (direct-apposition sphincter repair, overlapping sphincteroplasty, postanal repair, neosphincter procedures) may be successful.

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