Fecal Incontinence, also known as anal incontinence, is the passage of gas or feces without control. Normally continence occurs through the interaction between sensory nerves, sphincter muscle control, pelvic floor muscular coordination and stool consistency. When one or more of these elements fails, incontinence can result.
This condition can occur when experiencing diarrhea and is typically chronic or recurring. It can also occur in people who may not be aware that they need to pass a stool. The most common cause is prior obstetric trauma, but there are many other possible causes including sphincter damage from prior surgery, nerve damage to the pelvic floor, or hemorrhoids.
Thorough examination and visual inspection is performed to diagnose fecal incontinence, along with various tests to help determine the cause.
Initial evaluation and treatment begin with a thorough history and exam, along with measures such as diet change, stool bulking, exercises or therapies, and antimotility medications. Patients who do not respond to initial approaches may need additional testing such as manometry or ultrasound evaluation of their sphincter complex. Successful surgical treatment depends on the underlying cause.