Loss of bowel control is embarrassing and those who suffer from it are tired of sacrificing fun. But you don’t have to. Our non-invasive diagnostic tool helps us find the root cause so we can develop a more effective treatment for you. And you can get your life back.
Easy Treatment Options
Not everyone experiencing bowel or fecal incontinence will need surgery. There are many convenient treatment options that can provide relief and are virtually pain-free.
One option includes InToneMV, a non-invasive tool that can be used in the privacy of your own home. InToneMV combines a customizable probe with muscle stimulation to effectively strengthen the muscles of the pelvic floor, helping you maintain continence.
InToneMV provides voice-guided exercises and visual biofeedback to help you complete the series of exercises. Data from each home-based session is recorded and your CRS physician can review during follow-up visits to maximize your progress.
What is bowel incontinence?
Bowel incontinence, sometimes also referred to as fecal incontinence, is the impaired ability to control gas or stool and affects men and women. Severity ranges from mild difficulty with gas control to severe loss of control over liquid and formed stools. Bowel incontinence is a common problem, but often it is not discussed due to embarrassment.
What causes incontinence?
Both bladder and bowel incontinence tend to increase with age, but there are many causes of incontinence. Injury during childbirth is one of the most common causes. These injuries may cause a separation in the anal muscles and decrease in muscle strength. The nerves supplying the anal muscles may also be injured. While some injuries may be recognized immediately following childbirth, many others may go unnoticed and not become a problem until later in life. In these situations, past childbirth may not be recognized as the cause of incontinence.
Anal operations or injury to the tissue surrounding the anal region similarly can damage the anal muscles and hinder bowel control. Infections around the anal area may destroy muscle tissue leading to problems of incontinence. In addition, as people age, they experience loss of strength in the anal muscles. As a result, a minor problem in a younger person may become more significant later in life.
Diarrhea may be associated with a feeling of urgency or stool leakage due to the frequent liquid stools passing through the anal opening. If bleeding accompanies lack of bowel control, consult your CRS physician. These symptoms may indicate inflammation within the colon (colitis), a rectal tumor, or rectal prolapse – all conditions that require prompt evaluation by a physician.
How is the cause of incontinence determined?
First you need to discuss the problem with your physician to establish the severity and the impact it has on your lifestyle.
Many clues to the origin of incontinence may be found in patient histories. For example, a woman’s history of past childbirths is very important. Multiple pregnancies, large weight babies, forceps deliveries, or episiotomies may contribute to muscle or nerve injury during childbirth. In some cases, medical illnesses and medications play a role in problems with control.
A physical exam of the anal region should be performed and may readily identify an obvious injury to the anal muscles. In other cases additional tests may be required.
Our Pelvic Floor Lab is a non-invasive diagnostic tool that allows us to pinpoint the issue so we can create an effective treatment plan.
Tests may include manometry, where a small catheter is placed into the anus to record pressure as patients relax and tighten the anal muscles. This test can demonstrate how weak or strong the muscle really is.
A separate test may also be conducted to determine if the nerves that go to the anal muscles are functioning properly. In addition, an ultrasound probe can be used within the anal area to provide a picture of the muscles and show areas in which the anal muscles have been injured.
What can be done to correct the problem?
After a careful history, physical examination and testing to determine the cause and severity of the problem and treatment can be addressed. Mild problems may be treated very simply with dietary changes and the use of some constipating medications. Your physician also may recommend simple home exercises that may strengthen the anal muscles to help in mild cases.
In other cases, biofeedback can be used to help patients sense when stool is ready to be evacuated and help strengthen the muscles.
Other injuries to the anal muscles may be repaired with surgery.
Diseases which cause inflammation in the rectum, such as colitis, may contribute to anal control problems. Treating these diseases also may eliminate or improve symptoms of incontinence. Sometimes a change in prescribed medications may help.
In the past, patients with no hope of regaining bowel control required a colostomy. Today, this procedure is rarely required. In addition, current search into the development of an artificial anal muscle may soon find a place in treating patients with difficult control problems.