Faecal incontinence is a condition that can cause such embarrassment that even estimating it’s prevalence is difficult. More concerningly, relatively few sufferers seek medical attention despite treatments being available.
We do know that the condition affects at least 10 to 20 per cent of Australians, that the likelihood increases with age and that it’s more common and generally more severe in women.
Most commonly the condition is caused by complications due to childbirth, such as prolapse, or physical abnormalities such as haemorrhoid or fistula. In these cases, pathway investigations can lead to a management plan typically consisting of dietary and other lifestyle changes, and in severe cases medication and surgery.
More rarely, FI can be caused by a broken neural connection between the brain and bowel due to conditions such as spina bifida, spinal cord injury or nerve damage due to diabetes. In these cases treatment is more difficult, but one new method which can be effective is sacral nerve stimulation.
This treatment involves implanting a device similar to a pacemaker into one the buttocks of a patient. The device electrically stimulates the sacral nerve, which carries signals from the brain to the pelvic muscles. Patients typically report a more than fifty per cent reduction in episodes of FI. However, the period over which the new treatment remains effective is currently unknown.
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Source: ABC News