Background & aims: Sacral nerve stimulation is a proven therapeutic option for the treatment of some forms of urinary incontinence. Very recently, preliminary reports have given evidence for its efficacy in fecal incontinence (FI) too.
Methods: Since November 1998, 20 patients have been treated for severe FI. The cause of FI was mainly neurologic (n = 15), and was idiopathic in 5 patients. After temporary (subchronic) external stimulation over a period of 10-14 days, patients whose continence status improved underwent implantation of a permanent quadripolar lead and a subcutaneously implanted pulse generator.
Results: Acute (needle) testing revealed a positive pelvic floor response in 16 patients who underwent subsequent permanent implantation. The median number of incontinence episodes decreased from 6 episodes (3-15/21 days) to 2 (0-5/21 days). The time period of retention of a volume of saline causing an urge until definitive defecation was 2 minutes (range, 0-5 minutes) preoperatively and increased to 7.5 minutes (2-15 minutes) postoperatively. Results of preoperative and postoperative (3 months) anal manometry showed a statistically significant increase in maximal resting and squeeze pressures.
Conclusions: Sacral nerve stimulation seems to be a new and promising modality for patients with certain types of FI in whom conventional treatment options have failed to achieve an improvement.