Efficacy of Biofeedback Therapy in Clinical Practice for the Management of Chronic Constipation and Fecal Incontinence

Parker CH1, Henry S1, Liu LWC1. J Can Assoc Gastroenterol. 2019 Aug;2(3):126-131. doi: 10.1093/jcag/gwy036. Epub 2018 Jul 14.


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Division of Gastroenterology, Department of Medicine, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.


BACKGROUND: Chronic constipation (CC) and fecal incontinence (FI) are often secondary to pelvic floor neuromuscular sensory or motor dysfunction. Biofeedback therapy (BFT) uses visual and verbal feedback to improve anorectal coordination, strength and sensation. In clinical trials, BFT demonstrated response rates between 70% and 80%. The purpose of this study is to determine the effectiveness of BFT in clinical practice.

METHODS: In this retrospective observational cohort study, the charts of all patients who completed BFT at our centre were reviewed. A positive response to BFT was defined as improvement in ARM profile from baseline or subjective symptom improvement or both. Descriptive statistics were used to analyze the data.

RESULTS: One hundred thirty patients with an average age of 57.5 ± 16.4 years and 79.2% female were included. Of all patients, 43.1% were referred for CC, 37.7% for FI, 16.9% for alternating CC and FI, and 2.3% for rectal pain. The overall response rate to BFT was 76.2% (n=99). Of those that responded, 64.6% (n=64) demonstrated both ARM and symptom improvement, 27.3% (n=27) had ARM improvement but no symptom improvement, and 8.1% (n=8) had symptom improvement but no ARM improvement. In patients with FI, the overall response rate was 79.6% (n=39) with symptom improvement in 67.3% (n=33). In those with CC with dyssynergic defecation (n=53), the overall response rate was 69.8% (n=37); however, only 45.3% (n=24) had symptomatic improvement.

CONCLUSION: In our clinical practice, although overall response rates to BFT are similar to published reports, patients with CC with dyssynergic defecation are less likely to have symptomatic response compared with those with FI.

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