Send to

Choose Destination
Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2019 Nov 22. pii: S0002-9378(19)32635-3. doi: 10.1016/j.ajog.2019.11.1256. [Epub ahead of print]

Impact of treatment for Fecal Incontinence on Constipation Symptoms.

Author information

Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA. Electronic address:
Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC.
RTI International, Research Triangle Park, NC.
Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, AL.
Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology Kaiser Permanente, San Diego, CA.
Department of Women's Health, Dell Medical School, University of Texas at Austin. Austin, TX and The University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center, Albuquerque NM.
The Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD.
Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Alpert Medical School of Brown University, Providence, RI.
Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Pittsburgh, PA.



Defecatory symptoms, such as sense of incomplete emptying and straining with bowel movements, are paradoxically present in women with fecal incontinence (FI). Treatments for FI, such as loperamide and biofeedback, can worsen or improve defecatory symptoms, respectively. The primary aim of this study was to compare changes in constipation symptoms in women undergoing treatment for FI with education only, loperamide, anal muscle exercises with biofeedback, or both loperamide and biofeedback. Our secondary aim was to compare changes in constipation symptoms among responders and non-responders to FI treatment.


This was a planned secondary analysis of a randomized controlled trial comparing 2 first-line therapies for FI in a 2x2 factorial design. Women with at least monthly FI and normal stool consistency were randomized to 4 groups: 1) oral placebo plus education only, 2) oral loperamide plus education only, 3) placebo plus anorectal manometry-assisted biofeedback and 4) loperamide plus biofeedback. Defecatory symptoms were measured using the Patient Assessment of Constipation Symptoms (PAC-SYM) questionnaire at baseline, 12 weeks and 24 weeks. The PAC-SYM consists of 12 items that contribute to a global score and 3 subscales: stool characteristics/symptoms (hardness of stool, size of stool, straining, inability to pass stool), rectal symptoms (burning, pain, bleeding, incomplete bowel movement), and abdominal symptoms (discomfort, pain, bloating, cramps). Scores for each subscale as well as the global score range from 0 (no symptoms) to 4 (maximum score), with negative change scores representing improvement in defecatory symptoms. Responders to FI treatment were defined as women with a minimally important clinical improvement of ≥5-points on the St. Mark's (Vaizey) scale between baseline and 24 weeks. Intent-to-treat analysis was performed using a longitudinal mixed model, controlling for baseline scores, to estimate changes in PAC-SYM scores from baseline through 24 weeks.


At 24 weeks, there were small changes in PAC-SYM global scores in all four groups: oral placebo plus education (-0.3; 95% CI -0.5, -0.1), loperamide plus education (-0.1, 95% CI -0.3, 0.0), oral placebo plus biofeedback (-0.3, 95% CI -0.4, -0.2), and loperamide plus biofeedback (-0.3, 95% CI -0.4, -0.2). No differences were observed in change in PAC-SYM scores between women randomized to placebo plus education and those randomized to loperamide plus education (p=0.17) or placebo plus biofeedback (p=0.82). Change in PAC-SYM scores in women randomized to combination loperamide plus biofeedback therapy was not different from that of women randomized to treatment with loperamide or biofeedback alone. Responders had greater improvement in PAC-SYM scores than non-responders (-0.4; 95% CI -0.5, -0.3 vs. -0.2; 95% CI -0.3, -0.0, p<0.01, mean difference 0.2, 95% CI 0.1, 0.4).


Change in constipation symptoms following treatment of FI in women are small and are not significantly different between groups. Loperamide treatment for FI does not worsen constipation symptoms among women with normal consistency stool. Women with clinically significant improvement in FI symptoms report greater improvement in constipation symptoms.


Fecal Incontinence; anal exercises with biofeedback; anorectal disorders; constipation; defecatory symptoms; loperamide

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Elsevier Science
Loading ...
Support Center