Fecal incontinence in primary care: prevalence, diagnosis, and health care utilization

Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2010 May;202(5):493.e1-6. doi: 10.1016/j.ajog.2010.01.018. Epub 2010 Mar 12.


Objective: We sought to estimate the frequency of self-reported fecal incontinence (FI), identify what proportion of these patients have a diagnosis of FI in their medical record, and compare health care costs and utilization in patients with different severities of FI to those without FI.

Study design: Patients in a health maintenance organization were eligible and 1707 completed a survey. Patients with self-reported FI were assessed for a diagnosis of FI in their medical record for the last 5 years. Health care costs and utilization were obtained from claims data.

Results: FI was reported by 36.2% of primary care patients, but only 2.7% of patients with FI had a medical diagnosis. FI adversely affected quality of life and severe FI was associated with 55% higher health care costs (including 77% higher gastrointestinal-related health care costs) compared to continent patients.

Conclusion: Increased screening of FI is needed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Fecal Incontinence / diagnosis
  • Fecal Incontinence / economics
  • Fecal Incontinence / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Health Care Costs
  • Health Maintenance Organizations / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • Primary Health Care
  • Quality of Life
  • Washington / epidemiology