Prevalence and Severity of Fecal Incontinence in Veterans

Hosmer AE1, Saini SD2,3,4, Menees SB2,3. J Neurogastroenterol Motil. 2019 Oct 30;25(4):576-588. doi: 10.5056/jnm17134.


Author information

1 Division of Gastroenterology, Department of Internal Medicine, Ohio State University, Columbus, OH, USA.

2 Division of Gastroenterology, Department of Internal Medicine, University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor, MI, USA.

3 Division of Gastroenterology, Department of Internal Medicine, Ann Arbor Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Ann Arbor, MI, USA.

4 VA HSR&D Center for Clinical Management Research, Ann Arbor Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Ann Arbor, MI, USA.


BACKGROUND/AIMS: Fecal incontinence (FI) is a common complaint that increases in prevalence with age. Our aim was to determine the prevalence of FI and assess its severity by self-report in a male-predominant Veteran outpatient clinic setting.

METHODS: An anonymous 28 item questionnaire was administered to a convenience sample of veterans awaiting appointments. FI was defined as a loss of liquid or solid stool at least monthly. Multivariable logistic and linear models were used to identify predictors of FI prevalence and severity.

RESULTS: One hundred thirty-three gastroenterology (GI) participants and 126 primary care (PC) participants completed the survey. Ninety-four of 259 participants (36.3%, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 30.4-42.5) reported an episode of FI (41.4% GI participants vs 31.0% PC participants; P = 0.078) with 33.6% having FI within the last 30 days (36.8% GI participants vs 30.2% PC participants; P = 0.122). Participants with more bowel movements per week (P = 0.005) and per day (P < 0.001) and with a higher Bristol Stool Scale form (P = 0.010) were more likely to have FI. Of participants with FI, mean Fecal Incontinence Severity Index score was 23.0 ± 9.5 with a significantly higher symptom score in GI participants compared to PC participants (25.2 ± 10.0 vs 20.1 ± 8.2; P = 0.011). Few participants had ever been asked by (35.0%) or evaluated by (18.0%) a doctor for FI symptoms.

CONCLUSION: FI is a common complaint and under-recognized problem in the male-dominant Veteran population. Despite its prevalence, relatively few participants were asked about FI, with even less being treated. Due to the possible effects and implications on quality of life, more should be done to recognize this condition and arrange treatment.

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