Sensory retraining is key to biofeedback therapy for formed stool fecal incontinence.Am J Gastroenterol. 2002 Jan; 97(1):109-17.AJ
Biofeedback is a nonsurgical treatment that reportedly produces good results in 65-75% of fecally incontinent patients. However, previous studies have not ruled out nonspecific treatment effects. It is also unknown whether biofeedback works primarily by improving the strength of the striated pelvic floor muscles or by improving the rectal perception. We aimed to 1) evaluate the efficacy of biofeedback in formed-stool fecal incontinence, 2) assess the relative contribution of sensory and strength retraining to biofeedback outcomes, and 3) identify patient characteristics that predict a good response to treatment.
Twenty-four patients with frequent (at least once a week) solid-stool incontinence were provided with three to four biofeedback sessions. They were taught to squeeze in response to progressively weaker rectal distentions. Patients were re-evaluated by anorectal manometry and symptom diary 3 months after completing training and by diary and interview 6-12 months after training.
Seventeen (71%) were classified responders; 13 became continent and four reduced incontinence frequency by at least 75%. Clinical improvements were maintained at 12-month follow-up. At 3-month follow-up, responders had significantly lower thresholds for perception of rectal distention and for sphincter contraction, but squeeze pressures did not significantly differ from those of nonresponders. Baseline measures that predicted a favorable response were sensory threshold (50 ml or less), urge threshold (100 ml or less), lower threshold for sphincter contraction, and lower threshold for the rectoanal inhibitory reflex; neither anal squeeze pressure nor severity of incontinence predicted treatment outcome.
In solid-stool fecal incontinence biofeedback training effects are robust and seem not to be explained by expectancy or nonspecific treatment effect. Sensory retraining appears to be more relevant than strength training to the success of biofeedback.