Purpose: Faecal incontinence is a common and important multifactorial disorder with a range of treatment options. Over the last two decades, neuromodulation via sacral nerve stimulators has been shown to be effective for both faecal and urinary incontinence, although associated with complications. Peripheral neuromodulation, via the posterior tibial nerve, is widely used in urinary incontinence; however, its use in faecal incontinence, whilst evolving is limited to eight small heterogeneous studies.
Review: These eight studies are discussed in the context of the methodology and underlying neurophysiology of peripheral neuromodulation, as are thus far unanswered questions. The eight studies include a total of 129 patients with faecal incontinence (of variable aetiology), all of whom had failed conservative management. One study was prospective and controlled, six were uncontrolled and one was retrospective and uncontrolled. Five different neuromodulatory protocols were used over six different study periods. Outcome measures varied, but short term primary endpoint success ranged from 30.0% to 83.3%. The limitations to this early evidence, whilst encouraging, are significant, and it remains to be seen whether this novel treatment modality represents the minimally invasive, well-tolerated, cost-effective and flexible panacea hoped for this common and debilitating disease. Three upcoming multicentre placebo-controlled trials will better be able to delineate its role.