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Am J Gastroenterol. 1999 Jan;94(1):126-30.

Descending perineum syndrome: audit of clinical and laboratory features and outcome of pelvic floor retraining.

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  • 1Gastroenterology Research Unit, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota 55905, USA.



Our aim was to retrospectively analyze the Mayo Clinic experience of descending perineum syndrome from 1987-1997.


Clinical records were abstracted for demographic features, risk factors, results of anorectal and defecation tests, and a mailed questionnaire evaluated outcome and current symptoms.


All results are mean +/- SD. Clinically, 39 patients (38 women, one man), mean age 53+/-14 yr, presented with constipation (97%), incomplete rectal evacuation (92%), excessive straining (97%), digital rectal evacuation (38%), and fecal incontinence (15%). Laboratory tests showed anal sphincter resting pressure was 54+/-26 mm Hg, and squeeze pressure was 96+/-35 mm Hg; expulsion from the rectum of a 50-ml balloon required > 200 g added weight in 27%; perineal descent was 4.4+/-1 cm (normal < 4 cm) by scintigraphy. Scintigraphic evacuation, rectoanal angle change during defecation, and perineal descent were abnormal in 23%, 57%, and 78% of the patients, respectively. Associated features included female gender (96%), multiparity with vaginal delivery (55%), hysterectomy or cystocele/rectocele repair (74%). On follow-up, 64% responded; 17 of these 25 responders underwent pelvic floor retraining. At 2-yr median follow-up (range, 1-6 yr), 12 still experienced constipation or excessive straining; their perineal descent was greater than in patients who responded to retraining (p = 0.005).


Descending perineum syndrome is identifiable by clinical history and examination, and the most prevalent abnormality on testing is perineal descent > 4 cm; rectal balloon expulsion is an insensitive screening test for descending perineum syndrome. Pelvic floor retraining is a suboptimal treatment for this chronic disorder of rectal evacuation; the extent of perineal descent appears to be a useful predictor of response to retraining.

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