A Pilot Study Evaluating the Effectiveness of Biofeedback-Based Anal Strengthening Exercises in Treating Radiotherapy-Related Faecal Incontinence

Cureus. 2020 Nov 1;12(11):e11285. doi: 10.7759/cureus.11285.

Benjamin P Scott 1, Janet Candido 1, Christopher J Young 1, Jonathan Hong 1


Author information

  • 1Colorectal Unit, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Sydney, AUS.


Purpose Radiotherapy to the pelvis and especially the anal sphincters can result in long-term faecal incontinence. The aim of this study was to assess the effectiveness of biofeedback anal strengthening exercises in radiotherapy-related faecal incontinence. Methods A retrospective cohort study was performed on seven patients with radiotherapy-related faecal incontinence. Education and biofeedback based anal strengthening exercises were provided. Baseline and follow-up measurements were performed assessing anal sphincter fatigue time, resting, squeeze, and cough pressure. Continence scores and quality of life measures were assessed. Patients were followed up at five months. Results The radiotherapy target varied between prostate, uterus, and rectum. Four of the seven patients were female. Pescatori (0-10) and St Mark's (0-10) continence scores had a median improvement of 2 (range 0-5) and 1 (range 0-8) respectively. Self-completed patient continence scores (0-10mm) had a median improvement of 2mm (1-6mm). Anal fatigue time measurements (Isotonic Fatigue Time (seconds) and Isometric Fatigue Time (Cycles)) showed a median improvement of three seconds (-4 - 36 seconds) and three seconds (-1 - 6 seconds), respectively. Resting Pressure (mmHg), Squeeze Pressure (mmHg) and Cough Pressure (mmHg) showed median improvement of 10mmHg (-10-21mmHg), 15mmHg (-16 - 100mmHg) and 21mmHg (-3 - 53mmHg), respectively. Patient-defined quality of life (QOL) measures showed a median change of 0.2 (range 0-0.5). Conclusion Patients in this pilot study with radiotherapy-related faecal incontinence had improved anal pressure metrics, continence, and QOL following biofeedback based anal strengthening exercises. These early results suggest a benefit for anal strengthening in patients undergoing pelvic radiotherapy.

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