Impact of treatment for Fecal Incontinence on Constipation Symptoms.


OBJECTIVE:Defecatory symptoms, such as sense of incomplete emptying and straining with bowel movements, are paradoxically present in women with fecal incontinence (FI). Treatments for FI, such as loperamide and biofeedback, can worsen or improve defecatory symptoms, respectively. The primary aim of this study was to compare changes in constipation symptoms in women undergoing treatment for FI with education only, loperamide, anal muscle exercises with biofeedback, or both loperamide and biofeedback. Our secondary aim was to compare changes in constipation symptoms among responders and non-responders to FI treatment. METHODS:This was a planned secondary analysis of a randomized controlled trial comparing 2 first-line therapies for FI in a 2x2 factorial design. Women with at least monthly FI and normal stool consistency were randomized to 4 groups: 1) oral placebo plus education only, 2) oral loperamide plus education only, 3) placebo plus anorectal manometry-assisted biofeedback and 4) loperamide plus biofeedback. Defecatory symptoms were measured using the Patient Assessment of Constipation Symptoms (PAC-SYM) questionnaire at baseline, 12 weeks and 24 weeks. The PAC-SYM consists of 12 items that contribute to a global score and 3 subscales: stool characteristics/symptoms (hardness of stool, size of stool, straining, inability to pass stool), rectal symptoms (burning, pain, bleeding, incomplete bowel movement), and abdominal symptoms (discomfort, pain, bloating, cramps). Scores for each subscale as well as the global score range from 0 (no symptoms) to 4 (maximum score), with negative change scores representing improvement in defecatory symptoms. Responders to FI treatment were defined as women with a minimally important clinical improvement of ≥5-points on the St. Mark's (Vaizey) scale between baseline and 24 weeks. Intent-to-treat analysis was performed using a longitudinal mixed model, controlling for baseline scores, to estimate changes in PAC-SYM scores from baseline through 24 weeks. RESULTS:At 24 weeks, there were small changes in PAC-SYM global scores in all four groups: oral placebo plus education (-0.3; 95% CI -0.5, -0.1), loperamide plus education (-0.1, 95% CI -0.3, 0.0), oral placebo plus biofeedback (-0.3, 95% CI -0.4, -0.2), and loperamide plus biofeedback (-0.3, 95% CI -0.4, -0.2). No differences were observed in change in PAC-SYM scores between women randomized to placebo plus education and those randomized to loperamide plus education (p=0.17) or placebo plus biofeedback (p=0.82). Change in PAC-SYM scores in women randomized to combination loperamide plus biofeedback therapy was not different from that of women randomized to treatment with loperamide or biofeedback alone. Responders had greater improvement in PAC-SYM scores than non-responders (-0.4; 95% CI -0.5, -0.3 vs. -0.2; 95% CI -0.3, -0.0, p<0.01, mean difference 0.2, 95% CI 0.1, 0.4). CONCLUSION:Change in constipation symptoms following treatment of FI in women are small and are not significantly different between groups. Loperamide treatment for FI does not worsen constipation symptoms among women with normal consistency stool. Women with clinically significant improvement in FI symptoms report greater improvement in constipation symptoms.





Published Version (Please cite this version)


Publication Info

Andy, Uduak U, J Eric Jelovsek, Benjamin Carper, Isuzu Meyer, Keisha Y Dyer, Rebecca G Rogers, Donna Mazloomdoost, Nicole B Korbly, et al. (2019). Impact of treatment for Fecal Incontinence on Constipation Symptoms. American journal of obstetrics and gynecology. 10.1016/j.ajog.2019.11.1256 Retrieved from

This is constructed from limited available data and may be imprecise. To cite this article, please review & use the official citation provided by the journal.



John E Jelovsek

F. Bayard Carter Distinguished Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology

Dr. Jelovsek is the F. Bayard Carter Distinguished Professor of OBGYN at Duke University and serves as Director of Data Science for Women’s Health. He is Board Certified in OBGYN by the American Board of OBGYN and in Female Pelvic Medicine & Reconstructive Surgery by the American Board of OBGYN and American Board of Urology. He has an active surgical practice in urogynecology based out of Duke Raleigh. He has expertise as a clinician-scientist in developing and evaluating clinical prediction models using traditional biostatistics and machine learning approaches. These “individualized” patient-centered prediction tools aim to improve decision-making regarding the prevention of lower urinary tract symptoms (LUTS) and other pelvic floor disorders after childbirth (PMID:29056536), de novo stress urinary incontinence and other patient-perceived outcomes after pelvic organ prolapse surgery, risk of transfusion during gynecologic surgery, and urinary outcomes after mid-urethral sling surgery (PMID: 26942362). He also has significant expertise in leading trans-disciplinary teams through NIH-funded multi-center research networks and international settings. As alternate-PI for the Cleveland Clinic site in the NICHD Pelvic Floor Disorders Network, he was principal investigator on the CAPABLe trial (PMID: 31320277), one of the largest multi-center trials for fecal incontinence studying anal exercises with biofeedback and loperamide for the treatment of fecal incontinence. He was the principal investigator of the E-OPTIMAL study (PMID: 29677302), describing the long-term follow up sacrospinous ligament fixation compared to uterosacral ligament suspension for apical vaginal prolapse. He was also primary author on research establishing the minimum important clinical difference for commonly used measures of fecal incontinence. Currently, he serves as co-PI in the NIDDK Symptoms of Lower Urinary Tract Dysfunction Research Network (LURN) (U01DK097780-05) where he has been involved in studies in the development of Symptoms of Lower Urinary Tract Dysfunction Research Network Symptom Index-29 (LURN SI-29) and LURN SI-10 questionnaires for men and women with LUTS. He is also the site-PI for the PREMIER trial (1R01HD105892): Patient-Centered Outcomes of Sacrocolpopexy versus Uterosacral Ligament Suspension for the Treatment of Uterovaginal Prolapse.

Unless otherwise indicated, scholarly articles published by Duke faculty members are made available here with a CC-BY-NC (Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial) license, as enabled by the Duke Open Access Policy. If you wish to use the materials in ways not already permitted under CC-BY-NC, please consult the copyright owner. Other materials are made available here through the author’s grant of a non-exclusive license to make their work openly accessible.