Purpose: We aimed to investigate the changes in the proportion of collagen and in the elasticity of the internal anal sphincter in patients with neurogenic fecal incontinence.
Methods: Collagen content was studied in ten patients with neurogenic fecal incontinence (mean age, 51.5 years) and ten controls (age, 58.6 years) using histologic techniques to determine differences between incontinence and health and to determine the effect of aging. Changes in elasticity were also measured in 8 controls (mean age, 63 years) and 13 patients with neurogenic incontinence (mean age, 60 years) by recording the in vitro length-tension relationship of the freshly excised internal anal sphincter.
Results: Incontinent patients had a significantly higher collagen content than controls (55 percent vs. 33 percent; P = 0.013). In incontinent patients the amount of collagen and the patients' ages correlated significantly (P = 0.001). There was a greater increase in stable tension per increase in muscle length in the strips from incontinent patients compared with controls.
Conclusions: Changes in fibrous tissue content are likely to influence muscle tone and responsiveness of the sphincter in fecal incontinence.