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Dis Colon Rectum. 2016 Feb;59(2):132-9. doi: 10.1097/DCR.0000000000000523.

Transcutaneous Sacral Electrical Stimulation for Chronic Functional Constipation.

Author information

1 St Mark's Hospital & Academic Institute, Sir Alan Parks' Physiology Unit, Harrow, United Kingdom 2 Department of Surgery and Cancer, Imperial College London, South Kensington Campus, United Kingdom 3 Department of Surgery, Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, Fulham Road, London, United Kingdom.



Transcutaneous sacral nerve stimulation is reported to improve symptoms of fecal incontinence. Chronic constipation may also respond to stimulation, but this is poorly reported in the literature.


The study assessed the efficacy of transcutaneous electrical stimulation directly over the sacral nerve roots in chronic constipation.


Chronic functional constipation was established in all patients using the Rome III criteria.


The therapy was self-administered at home.


A pilot study was conducted of transcutaneous sacral stimulation given over a 4-week period for 12 hours a day.


Patients were assessed using the Patient Assessment of Constipation Symptoms, the Patient Assessment of Constipation Quality of Life, and the Cleveland constipation tool. A Global Rating of Change measure and a 1-week bowel diary was kept for the final week and compared with baseline.


Of the 20 patients recruited (16 female, median age 38.5 years), 80% (16) completed the trial. Five (31%) patients reported at least a point reduction in the Patient Assessment of Constipation Symptoms score, 4 (25%) deteriorated, and 7 (44%) improved by less than one point. Median (interquartile range) Patient Assessment of Constipation Symptoms scores were 2.33 (2.34) at baseline and 2.08 (2.58) at follow-up (p = 0.074). Median scores for the Patient Assessment of Constipation Quality of Life and Cleveland systems were 3.00 (1.64) and 17.15 (18) at baseline and 2.22 (3.04) and 15.31 (12) at follow-up (p = 0.096 and 0.111). One-third of patients reported a positive Global Rating of Change measure, although 68% required concurrent laxatives during the trial.


This is a pilot study and is limited by its small sample size.


Continuous transcutaneous sacral stimulation in the short term appears to be ineffective for chronic constipation. Larger well-powered studies with intermittent stimulation regimens are required to investigate this further.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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