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Fecal Incontinence is Highly Underreported

Loyola physicians offer new procedure to manage debilitating condition

MAYWOOD, Ill. - Fecal incontinence, or the inability to control the bowels, is a highly underreported and stigmatized condition, according to colorectal surgeons at Loyola University Health System (LUHS).

“This is a debilitating condition, which drastically affects a person’s quality of life,” said Dana Hayden, MD, MPH, colorectal surgeon, LUHS. “People with fecal incontinence avoid leaving the house to prevent an embarrassing accident from happening in public."

Fecal incontinence is more common in older adults, and although it affects women more commonly, men can also suffer from this disorder. This condition can be caused by a variety of factors, including damage to the pelvic nerves or muscles from trauma such as childbirth, and anal or rectal surgery; diseases like diabetes; or complications from radiation. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) estimates that more than 18 million Americans have fecal incontinence, yet Loyola doctors believe it is much higher.

“Fecal incontinence isn’t something that people talk about, yet we know from our practice that it is extremely common,” said Dr. Hayden, who also is an assistant professor in the Division of Colorectal Surgery at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine. “The good news is there are options to manage this condition."

Loyola now offers a new procedure for patients with fecal incontinence called sacral nerve stimulation. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently approved this minimally invasive therapy for the treatment of chronic fecal incontinence in patients who have failed or are not candidates for more conservative treatments. This procedure also has been used for years at Loyola in patients with urinary urge incontinence.

The technology uses an implantable apparatus, consisting of a thin wire and a neurostimulator, or pacemakerlike device, to stimulate the nerves that control bowel function. This technology uses an external neurostimulator during a trial assessment period. If the device is effective, physicians implant a device that can be used indefinitely. This procedure is done in an outpatient setting under mild sedation. Patients return home the same day with minimal discomfort.

“Studies have shown that sacral nerve stimulation reduces incontinent episodes and increases quality of life in a majority of patients with chronic fecal incontinence,” Dr. Hayden said. “These are dramatic, long-term results for patients who are dealing with chronic bowel control issues.”

Loyola University Health System (LUHS) is a member of Trinity Health. Based in the western suburbs of Chicago, LUHS is a quaternary care system with a 61-acre main medical center campus, the 36-acre Gottlieb Memorial Hospital campus and more than 30 primary and specialty care facilities in Cook, Will and DuPage counties. The medical center campus is conveniently located in Maywood, 13 miles west of the Chicago Loop and 8 miles east of Oak Brook, Ill. The heart of the medical center campus is a 559-licensed-bed hospital that houses a Level 1 Trauma Center, a Burn Center and the Ronald McDonald® Children's Hospital of Loyola University Medical Center. Also on campus are the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, Loyola Outpatient Center, Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine and Loyola Oral Health Center as well as the LUC Stritch School of Medicine, the LUC Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing and the Loyola Center for Fitness. Loyola's Gottlieb campus in Melrose Park includes the 255-licensed-bed community hospital, the Professional Office Building housing 150 private practice clinics, the Adult Day Care, the Gottlieb Center for Fitness, Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery and Bariatric Care and the Loyola Cancer Care & Research at the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Center at Melrose Park.

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