Send to

Choose Destination
Langenbecks Arch Chir. 1993;378(1):49-59.

[Acquired disorders of peritoneal cavity muscles. Abdominal wall denervation in pregnancy, denervation incontinence, and continent and incontinent constipation].

[Article in German]

Author information

Zentrum f├╝r Chirurigie, Chirurgische Universit├Ątsklinik, Bonn-Venusberg.


The peritoneal cavity has a fascial skeleton that is kept under tension by permanent variable resting tone maintained by the abdominal muscles. The lateral abdominal muscles, the diaphragm and the pelvic floor are all components of this fasciomuscular support system. Voluntary and reflective changes in muscle tension allow the entry and exit of matter into and out of the spherical abdominal cavity by opening and closing of specialized wall segments called sphincters. We have previously demonstrated the existence of a resting tone in the tail muscles of mammals from which the human pelvic floor muscles are derived. The pelvic floor and its integrated sphincters form the anorectal organ of continence. This organ is much weaker in females than in males. The spinal centers that govern continence, contain in the female significantly fewer ganglion cells than the corresponding centers in the male. Childbirth and a commonly found tendency to develop constipation are additional stressors for the congenitally weaker female organ of continence. We explain in this paper why the abdominal wall and the pelvic floor may suffer stretch-induced denervation injuries during pregnancy and delivery. Such damage may persist in later life and can give rise to incontinence and "flabby abdomen". Based on our work in this field, we found a new differentiation between continent and incontinent constipation. Continent constipation is caused by spasticity of the pelvic floor characterized by abnormally high sphincter activity. This spastic pelvic floor syndrome can be treated successfully by psychotherapeutic techniques. Incontinent constipation, in contrast, is always associated with subnormal activity of the sphincters and may be a cause of rectal prolapse. It can be treated successfully by anterior rectosigmoid resection. Incontinent constipation will also require operative approximation of the levators in many cases. Improvement cannot be expected to result from this procedure, however, unless the pelvic floor shows some residual resting activity.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Loading ...
Support Center