A components analysis of biofeedback in the treatment of fecal incontinence
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Fecal incontinence is a socially disabling symptom for which rectosphincteric biofeedback has been reported to be dramatically effective. The most commonly employed biofeedback procedure incorporates three separate and potentially effective components: (1) exercise of the external sphincter muscle, (2) training in discrimination of rectal sensations, and (3) training synchrony of the internal and external sphincter responses. This paper reports the results of single case experiments employed with eight incontinent patients to examine the contributions of each of these components. All eight patients improved, but only one required the biofeedback procedure as it was originally described. Three responded to sensory discrimination training, one to exercise training, and one to the training of synchronous sphincteric responses; three recovered independently of the effects of biofeedback. Despite the achievement of continence, the rectosphincteric reflexes following treatment continued to be abnormal in every case. These findings suggest that the character of the external sphincter response to rectal distension is an unreliable index of sphincter function and that exercise and sensory discrimination training procedures are effective for some cases of fecal incontinence.
Descriptor Key Wordsbiofeedback fecal incontinence restosphincteric reflexes
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