Fecal incontinence in acutely and critically ill patients: options in management

Ostomy Wound Manage. 2006 Dec;52(12):56-8, 60, 62-6.


Fecal incontinence presents a major challenge in the comprehensive nursing care of acutely and critically ill patients. When manifested as diarrhea, the effects of fecal incontinence can range from mild (superficial skin irritation) to profound (severe perineal dermatitis, dehydration, electrolyte imbalance, and sepsis). Fecal incontinence has many etiologies and risk factors. These include damage to the anal sphincter or pelvic floor, liquid stool consistency, abnormal colonic transport, and decreased intestinal capacity. To avoid or minimize complications, the cause of diarrhea should be addressed, fecal leakage prevented, stool contained, and skin integrity preserved. Management options addressing these goals include diet, pharmacological therapy, and the use of containment products. Management options and their respective advantages and disadvantages are presented with a special focus on safety issues. Diverse approaches are safe only if they are knowledgeably selected, carefully instituted, and constantly monitored for their effects on patient outcomes. Research to identify which options work best in selected clinical situations and which combinations of therapies are most effective is needed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Antidiarrheals / therapeutic use
  • Bandages
  • Causality
  • Critical Care / methods
  • Critical Illness*
  • Dehydration / etiology
  • Diaper Rash / etiology
  • Diapers, Adult
  • Diarrhea / epidemiology
  • Diarrhea / etiology
  • Diarrhea / prevention & control*
  • Drainage
  • Fecal Incontinence / epidemiology
  • Fecal Incontinence / etiology
  • Fecal Incontinence / prevention & control*
  • Humans
  • Nursing Assessment
  • Patient Care Planning
  • Prevalence
  • Skin Care / instrumentation
  • Skin Care / methods*
  • Skin Care / nursing


  • Antidiarrheals