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Spinal Cord. 2010 Sep;48(9):664-73. doi: 10.1038/sc.2010.5. Epub 2010 Feb 9.

Review of the efficacy and safety of transanal irrigation for neurogenic bowel dysfunction.

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Department of Gastroenterology and Nutrition, University College Hospital, London, UK.



Neurogenic bowel dysfunction (NBD) is a common occurrence after spinal cord injury (SCI) and in patients with spina bifida or multiple sclerosis. The impact of NBD on well-being is considerable, affecting both physical and psychological aspects of quality of life. Transanal irrigation (TAI) of the colon promotes the evacuation of faeces by introducing water into the colon and rectum through a catheter inserted into the anus. Regular and controlled evacuation in this manner aims at preventing both constipation and faecal soiling.


The aim of this study was to review current evidence for the efficacy and safety of TAI in patients with NBD.


A literature search was conducted in PubMed. All identified papers were assessed for relevance based on the title and abstract; this yielded 23 studies that were considered to be of direct relevance to the topic of the review.


A multicentre, randomized, controlled trial has supported observational reports in demonstrating that TAI offers significant benefits over conservative bowel management in patients with SCI, in terms of managing constipation and faecal incontinence, reducing NBD symptoms and improving quality of life. Among other populations with NBD, TAI shows the greatest promise in children with spina bifida; however, further investigation is required. The overall safety profile of TAI is good, with few, and rare, adverse effects.


Building on the positive data reported for patients with SCI, continued evaluation in the clinical trial setting is required to further define the utility of TAI in other populations with NBD.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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