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Fecal Incontinence

Fecal incontinence (also called bowel incontinence) occurs when you can’t control bowel movements. You may leak stool when passing gas, during physical activity or at other unwanted times. At the Maimonides Pelvic Floor Center, we understand the sensitive nature of this condition.

Working with our specialists, you receive discreet, expert care at Brooklyn’s only full-service pelvic floor center for men and women. Our team uses the latest diagnostic tools and treatments to correct fecal incontinence. You’ll soon be engaging in daily activities again with confidence.

What Causes Fecal Incontinence?

Fecal incontinence is fairly common, affecting an estimated 5 million Americans. Factors that increase the risk of fecal incontinence include:

  • Age: The anal sphincter muscles that hold in feces naturally weaken with age.

  • Changes in bowel habits: Long bouts of diarrhea or constipation can contribute to stool leakage.

  • Childbirth: Vaginal childbirth can damage anal sphincter muscles that hold in stool.

  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD): Bowel problems such as Crohn’s disease can affect the stretching ability of the rectum. As a result, excess stool builds up and then leaks out.

  • Cancer treatments: Radiation therapy for prostate cancer and other pelvic cancer can lead to fecal incontinence. People who have low anterior resection syndrome (LARS) also have a higher risk of fecal incontinence.

  • Rectal prolapse: This condition occurs when the rectum (the last part of the intestines) bulges out through the anus.

Diagnosing Fecal Incontinence

Our anorectal physiology lab features the most advanced technology to identify the cause of fecal incontinence. Diagnostic tests include:

  • Anal electromyography: Your doctor inserts tiny electrodes into muscles surrounding the anus to assess nerve damage.

  • Anal manometry: Your doctor inserts a short, thin tube into the anus and rectum. The device measures muscle contractions that move stool from the rectum and out of the body.

  • Anorectal ultrasound: A small ultrasound probe is inserted into the rectum. The probe captures images of the sphincter muscles.

  • Dynamic pelvic floor MRI defecography: This scan creates detailed images of the rectum and pelvic floor muscles during a bowel movement.

  • Proctosigmoidoscopy: Your doctor inserts a sigmoidoscope, a thin flexible tube with a small video camera attached, into the rectum. The device enables your doctor to view the bowel lining.

Nonsurgical Treatments for Fecal Incontinence

We offer a variety of treatments for fecal incontinence and always start with the least invasive treatment first. Treatments that avoid surgery include:

  • Dietary changes: We develop a diet plan that helps you avoid caffeinated beverages, dairy products, alcohol, and other food and drink that cause loose stools.

  • Medications: Antidiarrheal medications and fiber supplements can firm up stool.

  • Bowel training: Changing your behavior can help retrain your bowels and improve muscle strength. For instance, your doctor may recommend trying to have a bowel movement during specific times each day.

  • Pelvic floor exercises and biofeedback: You work with our specialist to learn exercises to strengthen anal sphincter muscles. Sensors used during training provide biofeedback, ensure you perform the exercises properly and achieve results.

  • Bulking agents: A thickening agent such as collagen (a protein) is injected around the anus to build up the anal wall and prevent leakage.

Surgical Treatments for Fecal Incontinence

Our surgeons expertly use minimally invasive techniques, including robotic-assisted technology, to treat fecal incontinence. Minimally invasive procedures help you get back to your normal routine faster. The smaller incisions mean less blood loss during surgery, reduced pain during recovery and minimal scarring.

Our surgical treatments include:

  • Implantable neurostimulator: We’re experts at implanting InterStim™, a small pacemaker-like device that continuously sends mild electrical impulses to the sacral nerve. This nerve in the pelvis controls the anal sphincter muscles, bladder and pelvic floor muscles.

  • Sphincteroplasty: Your surgeon repairs damaged sphincter muscles by reconnecting the ends of anal muscles separated in childbirth or trauma.

  • Rectal prolapse repair: Your doctor uses sutures or a sling to secure the rectum to the pelvic wall or large intestine. We perform this procedure through a small incision in the anus using a minimally invasive robotic procedure called rectopexy. This approach avoids large incisions in the abdomen, which are more painful and require a longer recovery.

Contact Us

To make an appointment at the Maimonides Pelvic Floor Center, call 718-PELVIC-1 (718-735-8421) or request an appointment online.