Fecal Incontinence: Etiology, Diagnosis, and Management

Karim Alavi, Sook Chan, Paul Wise, Andreas M. Kaiser, Ranjan Sudan, Liliana Bordeianou

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


Introduction: Fecal incontinence is a debilitating condition affecting primarily the elderly. Many patients suffer in silence resulting in both underdiagnosis and undertreatment often culminating in an overall poor quality of life. Methods: We sought to review the etiology, diagnosis, and treatment of fecal incontinence based on current literature. Additionally, newer treatment methods such as Solesta will be evaluated. Results: There are many diagnostic modalities available to assess the degree and severity of the patient’s incontinence; however, a thorough history and physical exam is critical. Initial attempts at treatment focus on medical management primarily through stool texture modification with the aid of bulking agents. Failure of medical therapy is often followed by a graded increase in the complexity and invasiveness of the available treatment options. The selection of the most appropriate surgical option, such as overlapping sphincteroplasty and neuromodulation, is multifactorial involving both surgeon and patient-related factors. Neuromodulation has received increased attention in the last decade due to its documented therapeutic success, and newer office-based procedures, such as the Solesta injection, are showing promising results in properly selected patients. Finally, diversion remains an option for select patients who have failed all other therapies. Conclusion: The etiology of fecal incontinence is multifactorial, involving a complex interplay between stool consistency and anatomic integrity. The diagnosis and treatment of fecal incontinence continue to evolve and are showing promising results.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1910-1921
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Gastrointestinal Surgery
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 29 2015


  • Artificial sphincter
  • Fecal incontinence
  • Graciloplasty
  • Sacral nerve stimulation
  • Sphincteroplasty


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