Functional Fecal Soiling Without Constipation, Organic Cause or Neuropsychiatric Disorders?

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Abstract

Background:

The aetiology of fecal incontinence in children has traditionally been attributed to idiopathic constipation, structural defects or neuropsychiatric disorders. We describe a new subgroup of otherwise healthy children who have fecal soiling without any underlying cause for the incontinence.

Methods:

The hospital records of children with fecal incontinence were screened to detect patients without any history, signs or symptoms of constipation or an organic, neurological or psychiatric cause for the incontinence. Anorectal manometry findings were compared with those of age-matched children with idiopathic constipation and soiling.

Results:

Eight boys and 5 girls were identified. The median age at diagnosis was 7.9 years. Soiling had lasted median of 4.1 years, occurred at least every other day in 9, at least once a week in 2 and occasionally in 2 and required change of underwear or use of protective pads. Abdominal x-ray and barium enema showed normal findings. Sacral x-ray and/or MRI of the spinal cord showed normal bony spine and spinal cord. Five children had coexisting night and/or daytime wetting. Impaired rectal sensation was the only identifiable abnormality that was detected. The median volume required for the first sensation was 45 mL (range, 15-100 mL; normal, <15 mL). Anorectal manometry alone was unable to differentiate patients with functional fecal soiling from those with idiopathic constipation associated soiling. The median follow-up time after the diagnosis was 9.1 months. Treatment of fecal soiling consisted of education, dietary modification or stimulatory laxatives to establish regular toileting routines. Treatment improved fecal continence in 6 out of 8 cases with follow-up longer than 6 months.

Conclusions:

There is a small subgroup of children with fecal soiling who are otherwise healthy without constipation or any other underlying cause for the incontinence. These children seem to have isolated impairment of rectal sensation. In most, the prognosis is good with conservative treatment.

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