Dilatation and closing anal reflexes. Description and clinical significance of new reflexes: preliminary report

Acta Anat (Basel). 1991;142(4):293-8.


The present communication describes new reflexes which are called 'dilatation and closing anal reflexes', and discusses their clinical significance. The study comprised 21 healthy volunteers and 15 incontinent patients (7 with partial fecal incontinence and 8 with urinary stress incontinence). The technique comprised the introduction into the rectal neck of a balloon-tipped catheter. The balloon was inflated with air in increments of 10 ml up to 50 ml, and the EMG response of the external and urethral sphincters to balloon inflation and deflation was recorded. A new device called 'switch inflation' apparatus was used to inflate the balloon simultaneously with switching of the EMG apparatus. Rapid rectal neck inflation and deflation evoked external anal and urethral sphincter contraction. Slow and gradual inflation or deflation did not initiate the response. The anesthetized external anal sphincter did not respond to the stimulus, while the saline-infiltrated sphincter responded. The latency of the reflexes was recorded. In fecal incontinent patients, the external anal sphincter, on rapid rectal neck inflation or deflation, showed lower EMG activity and longer latency than in normal volunteers; the external urethral sphincter responded as in normal volunteers. In urinary stress incontinent patients, the external anal sphincter responded normally for both rectal neck inflation and deflation. The external urethral sphincter showed lower EMG activity and prolonged latency than normal on rectal neck inflation; it did not respond to deflation. The dilatation and closing reflexes seem to play a role in fecal and urinary continence as well as in fecal sampling. Detectable changes in latency or amplitude of the evoked response indicate a defect in the reflex pathway.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anal Canal / physiology*
  • Electromyography / methods
  • Fecal Incontinence / physiopathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Reflex / physiology*
  • Time Factors
  • Urethra / physiology