Physical Therapy for Fecal Incontinence in Children with Pelvic Floor Dyssynergia

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To determine the efficacy of physical therapy (PT) for fecal incontinence in children with pelvic floor dyssynergia (PFD).

Study design

Retrospective chart review of children with PFD completing >1 PT session for fecal incontinence at a quaternary children's hospital. The frequency of fecal incontinence (primary outcome), constipation-related medication use, number of bowel movements (in those with <3 per week at baseline) and pelvic floor muscle (PFM) function were captured at baseline and at the final PT visit. Outcomes were categorized as excellent (complete continence), good (>50% decrease in fecal incontinence frequency), fair (not worsening but <50% fecal incontinence frequency decrease), and poor (more frequent fecal incontinence). Compliance with PT was determined by the percentage of attended PT appointments.


Children included met the following primary outcomes: 27 (42.2%) excellent, 24 (37.5%) good, 11 (17.1%) fair, and 2 (3.1%) poor. Factors associated with an excellent or good outcome included improved PFM functioning and good (≥70% PT attendance) compliance. Children with a history of surgically corrected tethered spinal cord were more likely to have a fair outcome (P = .015). Use of constipation-related medications decreased (1.9 ± 0.7 vs 1.5 ± 0.9, P = .005). Weekly bowel movement frequency increased (1.6 ± 0.6 vs 6.4 ± 4.8, P < .001) in those with infrequent bowel movements (n = 26) at baseline.


Pelvic floor PT is effective in the majority of children with fecal incontinence related to PFD. Factors associated with PT efficacy include improved PFM functioning, good compliance with PT, and history of tethered cord.

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