Quality of life impact in women with accidental bowel leakage

Int J Clin Pract. 2012 Nov;66(11):1109-16. doi: 10.1111/ijcp.12017.


Background: Accidental bowel leakage (ABL) is associated with negative impact on quality of life (QoL) and many women do not seek care.

Objectives: To assess current perspectives and QoL among women with ABL; to identify factors associated with severe impact on condition-specific QoL; and to describe care-seeking for ABL.

Design, setting and participants: Sub-analysis of 1096 women with ABL identified through an internet-based, self-administered survey of 5817 US women ≥ 45 years old.

Main outcome measure: Severe impact on QoL was defined as response of 'affects very much' or 'greatly' to any of seven domains within Pelvic Floor Impact Questionnaire.

Results: QoL data were available for 85.6% (938/1096) of women with ABL. Domains relating to frustration, emotional health and participation in social activities demonstrated the greatest negative impact, with 39.2% (95% CI 36.1-42.4%) having overall severe impact. More frequent ABL, faecal urgency, nocturnal bowel movements, FI without warning, stress FI, weekly urinary incontinence and underlying bowel disorder were associated with severe impact on QoL. Of the 28.6% (268/938) of women who spoke to a physician about their ABL, the majority did so with a general practitioner or family physician (56.0%, 150/268). Only 19.0% (51/268) consulted an internist or gastroenterologist [27.2% (73/268)].

Conclusions: Nearly 40% of adult women with ABL have severe negative impact on QoL, but less than one-third seek care. More than half of those who seek care do so with their primary care provider. Improved awareness of the prevalence and impact of FI by these providers may decrease barriers and improve QoL.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Fecal Incontinence / psychology*
  • Female
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / psychology
  • Patient Satisfaction
  • Quality of Life*
  • Socioeconomic Factors