Nine percent of adult women experience episodes of fecal incontinence at least monthly. Fecal incontinence is more common in older women and those with chronic bowel disturbance, diabetes, obesity, prior anal sphincter injury, or urinary incontinence. Fecal incontinence negatively affects quality of life and mental health and is associated with increased risk of nursing home placement. Fewer than 30% of women with fecal incontinence seek care, and lack of information about effective solutions is an important barrier for both patients and health care professionals. Even among women with both urinary and fecal incontinence presenting for urogynecologic care, the rate of verbal disclosure of fecal incontinence symptoms remains low. This article provides an overview of the evaluation and management of fecal incontinence for the busy obstetrician-gynecologist, incorporating existing guidance from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American College of Gastroenterology, and the American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons. The initial clinical evaluation of fecal incontinence requires a focused history and physical examination. Recording patient symptoms using a standard diary or questionnaire can help document symptoms and response to treatment. Invasive diagnostic testing and imaging generally are not needed to initiate treatment but may be considered in complex cases. Most women have mild symptoms that will improve with optimized stool consistency and medications. Additional treatment options include pelvic floor muscle strengthening with or without biofeedback, devices placed anally or vaginally, and surgery, including sacral neurostimulation, anal sphincteroplasty, and, for severely affected individuals for whom other interventions fail, colonic diversion.
Obstetrics and gynecology. 2020 Sep 10 [Epub ahead of print]
Heidi W Brown, Keisha Y Dyer, Rebecca G Rogers
University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, Madison, Wisconsin; Female Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Kaiser Permanente San Diego, San Diego, California; and the Department of Women's Health, Dell Medical School, University of Texas at Austin, Austin Texas.