Sacral nerve stimulation for faecal incontinence

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Faecal incontinence resulting from obstetric injury is a socially disabling condition with a significant impact on quality of life. Sacral nerve stimulation (SNS) is a relatively new treatment modality, which offers patients a potential for improved continence.


We reviewed our initial experience of SNS in 14 patients (mean age 54 years, range 30-72) with faecal incontinence from January 2006 to June 2007. Background demographics, past medical and obstetric history, anal manometry, endoanal ultrasound and pudendal nerve studies were recorded on all patients. All patients who had permanent SNS implants inserted had pre and post operative questionnaires consisting of the Wexner Continence Score and the Rockwood and SF-36 Quality of Life Indices.


Out of 14 patients, 13 had incontinence related to obstetric injuries while one was related to a cauda equina syndrome. All patients had a test procedure consisting of placement of temporary electrodes and a 2-week trial of external SNS. Ten patients noted a significant improvement in their continence and these 10 patients subsequently had a permanent SNS device implanted with an overall significant improvement in continence (P < 0.001) and quality of life (P < 0.01). There were no immediate postoperative complications and one late failure consisting of a lead fracture, which was replaced successfully. Four (29%) patients did not have a significant benefit from temporary SNS and two of these patients subsequently had a colostomy.


SNS offers improvement in continence and quality of life in patients with faecal incontinence whose only other option might otherwise be a permanent colostomy.

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