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Dis Colon Rectum. 2005 Jan;48(1):134-40.

Rectal hypersensitivity worsens stool frequency, urgency, and lifestyle in patients with urge fecal incontinence.

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Centre for Academic Surgery, Barts and The London, Queen Mary's School of Medicine and Dentistry, Whitechapel, London, United Kingdom.



Rectal sensory mechanisms are important in the maintenance of fecal continence. Approximately 50 percent of patients with urge incontinence have lowered rectal sensory threshold volumes (rectal hypersensitivity) on balloon distention. Rectal hypersensitivity may underlie the heightened perception of rectal filling; however, its impact on fecal urgency and incontinence is unknown. This study was designed to investigate the impact of rectal hypersensitivity in patients with urge fecal incontinence.


Prospective and retrospective audit review of all patients (n = 258) with an intact native rectum referred to a tertiary colorectal surgical center for physiologic investigation of urge fecal incontinence during a 7.5-year period. Patients with urge fecal incontinence who had undergone pelvic radiotherapy (n = 9) or rectal prolapse (n = 6) were excluded.


A total of 108 of 243 patients (44 percent) were found to have rectal hypersensitivity. The incidence of anal sphincter dysfunction was equal (90 percent) among those with or without rectal hypersensitivity. Patients with urge fecal incontinence and rectal hypersensitivity had increased stool frequency (P < 0.0001), reported greater use of pads (P = 0.003), and lifestyle restrictions (P = 0.0007) compared with those with normal rectal sensation, but had similar frequencies of incontinent episodes.


Urge fecal incontinence relates primarily to external anal sphincter dysfunction, but in patients with urge fecal incontinence, rectal hypersensitivity exacerbates fecal urgency, and this should be considered in the management and surgical decision in patients who present with fecal incontinence.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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