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Int J Colorectal Dis. 2012 Jul;27(7):931-7. doi: 10.1007/s00384-012-1415-9. Epub 2012 Feb 18.

Critical reappraisal of anorectal function tests in patients with faecal incontinence who have failed conservative treatment.

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Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, VU University Medical Center, PO Box 7057, 1007 MB Amsterdam, The Netherlands.



Anorectal function tests are often performed in patients with faecal incontinence who have failed conservative treatment. This study was aimed to establish the additive value of performing anorectal function tests in these patients in selecting them for surgery.


Between 2003 and 2009, all referred patients with faecal incontinence were assessed by a questionnaire, anorectal manometry and anal endosonography. Patients with diarrhea, inflammatory bowel disease, pouches or rectal carcinoma were excluded.


In total, 218 patients were evaluated. Of these, 107 (49%) patients had no sphincter defects, 71 (33%) had small defects and 40 (18%) had large defects. Anorectal manometry could not differentiate between patients with and without sphincter defects. Patients with sphincter defects were only found to have a significantly shorter sphincter length and reduced rectal capacity compared to patients without sphincter defects. Forty-three patients (20%) had a normal anal pressures ≥ 40 mmHg. Seventeen patients (8%) had also a dyssynergic pelvic floor both on clinical examination and anorectal manometry. Fifteen patients (7%) had a reduced rectal capacity between 65 and 100 ml. There was no difference in anal pressures or the presence of sphincter defects in these patients compared to patients with a rectal capacity >150 ml. There was no correlation between anorectal manometry, endosonography and faecal incontinence severity scores.


In patients with faecal incontinence who have failed conservative treatment, only anal endosonography can reveal sphincter defects. Anorectal manometry should be reserved for patients eligible for surgery to exclude those with suspected dyssynergic floor or reduced rectal capacity.

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