Background: Biofeedback has been reported to improve or eliminate symptoms in approximately 70 per cent of patients with faecal incontinence. However, it is unknown which patients respond in relation to the different symptomatic types of faecal incontinence and the different structural sphincter aetiologies.
Methods: One hundred consecutive patients (84 women; median age 49 years) who completed biofeedback treatment were prospectively characterized by symptoms and by structural integrity of the internal and external anal sphincters as assessed endosonographically (87 patients). Patients underwent a median of 4 biofeedback sessions.
Results: Overall, 43 of the 100 patients regarded themselves as symptomatically cured and 24 improved after treatment. Cure or improvement was experienced by 24 of 30 patients with a structurally normal anal sphincter, by 27 of 46 patients with an external anal sphincter structural defect, and by seven of 11 with an isolated internal anal sphincter defect or atrophy. Thirty-three of 60 patients with urge incontinence alone were symptomatically cured, compared with five of 22 of those with only passive incontinence.
Conclusion: Biofeedback retraining is effective in the short term in treating a majority of patients with faecal incontinence. It is most successful in treating urge incontinence, but also helps some patients with passive leakage. Even in patients with structural anal sphincter damage, some symptom improvement or cure is achieved.