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Ann Surg. 2005 Nov;242(5):662-9.

Efficacy of sacral nerve stimulation for fecal incontinence: results of a multicenter double-blind crossover study.

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Digestive Tract Research Group EA3234/IFRMP23, CHU Rouen, France.



This is the first double-blind multicenter study examining the effectiveness of sacral nerve stimulation in a significant number of fecally incontinent patients.


A total of 34 consecutive patients (31 women), median age 57 years (range, 33-73 years), underwent sacral nerve stimulation for fecal incontinence. After implantation, 27 of 34 patients were randomized in a double-blind crossover design to stimulation ON or OFF for 1-month periods. While still blinded, the patients chose the period of stimulation (ON or OFF) that they had preferred. The mode of stimulation corresponding to the selected period was continued for 3 months (final period). Outcome measures were frequency of fecal incontinence and urgency episodes, delay in postponing defecation, score severity, feeling of improvement, preference for ON or OFF, quality of life, and manometric measurements.


In the crossover portion of the study, the self-reported frequency of fecal incontinence episodes was significantly reduced during the ON versus the OFF period (P = 0.03), and this symptomatic improvement was consistent: 1) with the patients feeling of greater improvement during the ON versus OFF period (P = 0.02); 2) with the significant preference of patients (P = 0.02) for the ON versus OFF period. In the final period of the study, the frequency of fecal incontinence episodes decreased significantly (P = 0.005) in patients with the stimulator ON. The ability to postpone defecation (P = 0.01), the score for symptom severity (P = 0.0004), and the quality of life (P < 0.05) as well as anal sphincter function significantly improved.


The significant improvement in FI during the ON versus OFF period indicated that the clinical benefit of sacral nerve stimulation was not due to placebo.

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