Fecal incontinence is defined by the unintentional loss of solid or liquid stool, and anal incontinence includes leakage of gas and / or fecal incontinence. Anal-fecal incontinence is not a diagnosis but a symptom. Many patients hide the problem from their families, friends, and even their doctors. Epidemiologic studies indicate a prevalence between 7-15 %, up to 30 % in hospitals and up to 70 % in longterm care settings. Anal-fecal incontinence causes a significant socio-economic burden. There is no widely accepted approach for classifying anal-fecal incontinence available. Anal-fecal continence is maintained by anatomical factors, rectoanal sensation, and rectal compliance. The diagnostic approach comprises muscle and nerve injuries by iatrogenic, obstetric or surgical trauma, descending pelvic floor or associated diseases. A basic diagnostic workup is sufficient to characterize the different manifestations of fecal incontinence in most of the cases. This includes patient history with a daily stool protocol and digital rectal investigation. Additional investigations may include anorectal manometry, anal sphincter EMG, conduction velocity of the pudendal nerve, needle EMG, barostat investigation, defecography and the dynamic MRI. Therapeutic interventions are focused on the individual symptoms and should be provided in close cooperation with gastroenterologists, surgeons, gynecologists, urologists, physiotherapeutics and psychologists (nutritional-training, food fibre content, pharmacological treatment of diarrhea/constipation, toilet training, pelvic floor gymnastic, anal sphincter training, biofeedback). Surgical therapy includes the STARR operation for rectoanal prolapse and sacral nerve stimulation for chronic constipation and anal-fecal incontinence. Surgery should not be applied unless the diagnostic work-up is complete and all conservative treatment options failed.
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