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Dis Colon Rectum. 2004 Aug;47(8):1350-7.

Sacral neuromodulation in patients with fecal incontinence: a single-center study.

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Department of Colorectal Surgery, University Hospital Maastricht, Maastricht, The Netherlands.



Fecal incontinence is a psychologically devastating and socially incapacitating condition. Conventional treatment is likely to improve continence in many patients; however, there remains a group with persisting symptoms who are not amenable for a simple surgical repair. We evaluated the effect of sacral neuromodulation in patients with structurally intact sphincters after failure of conventional treatment.


Patients aged 18 to 75 years were evaluated. Incontinence was defined as involuntary loss of stool at least once per week, which was objectified by completion of a three-week bowel-habits diary during ambulatory electrode stimulation at the S3 or S4 foramen. Patients were qualified for permanent stimulation when showing a reduction of at least 50 percent in incontinence episodes or days.


Seventy-five patients (66 females; mean age, 52 (range, 26-75) years) were treated. Three patients had partial spinal cord injury, two patients a previous low-anterior resection, and nine patients had a previous sphincter repair. Evaluation after trial screening showed that 62 patients (83 percent) had improved continence. Median incontinence episodes per week decreased from 7.5 to 0.67 (P < 0.01), median incontinence days per week from 4 to 0.5 (P < 0.01). The symptomatic response stayed unchanged after implantation of a permanent electrode and pacemaker in 50 patients. After a median follow-up of 12 months, this effect could be sustained in 48 patients. Anal manometry during stimulation showed no increase of sphincter pressures.


Sacral neuromodulation is a feasible treatment option for fecal incontinence in patients with structurally intact sphincters.

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