Fecal Incontinence | Diagnosis & Treatment

How is fecal incontinence diagnosed?

A number of tests can help determine the cause of fecal incontinence, including:

  • anorectal manometry measures nerve reflexes and the strength of the anal sphincter
  • abdominal X-ray can show a lack of stool or blockage in a child's large intestine or near the anus, as well as swollen segments of the large and small intestine
  • barium enema uses a chalky liquid called barium to coat the inside of organs and takes an X-ray so clinicians can look for abnormalities in the large intestine
  • colorectal transit study uses an X-ray to monitor the movement of markers through the intestine and colon
  • colonoscopy involves a long, flexible, lighted tube that is gently inserted through the rectum and into the colon so doctors can view the colon
  • colonic motility study measures the strength of the contractions of the large intestine

How is fecal incontinence treated?

The objective of treatment is to enable the child to have bowel movements in a predictable and socially acceptable way. Treatment methods to achieve this include:

  • dietary changes
  • rectal interventions including specialized enemas
  • cecostomy, a procedure that uses a tube placed in the child's belly to flush stool out of the intestines
  • bowel and toilet scheduling
  • counseling and psychotherapy
  • biofeedback therapy, a type of sensory training that helps a child learn to self-regulate the muscles and nerves in their bowels