Objective: Despite the availability of pharmacological, behavioural and surgical treatments for faecal incontinence, many patients remain symptomatic. There are few devices designed specifically to cope with this, and perineal pads are inefficient and unacceptable for many patients. This study aimed to evaluate a new device in patients with intractable faecal incontinence.
Method: Two sizes of a purpose-designed anal plug were evaluated in 20 patients with intractable faecal incontinence for solid or liquid stool. Each plug size was tested for 2 weeks, with patients completing a structured questionnaire after each size.
Results: The majority [14/20] could not tolerate a plug due to discomfort. Four patients (20%) wished to continue to use a plug on a regular basis after the study, and two others on an occasional basis. However, for this minority who could tolerate a plug, it was highly successful at controlling faecal incontinence. There was no clear preference for the smaller or larger plug. There was no association between comfort in using the plug and anorectal sensitivity as measured by electrophysiological tests. It was not possible to predict which patients would benefit from plug use.
Conclusion: The anal plug is effective in controlling faecal incontinence and is well tolerated in a minority of patients. Evaluation quickly reveals whether the patient will find it an effective and acceptable option. This device therefore offers a further management option for patients with faecal incontinence.