For many people, bowel incontinence is a vexing problem for years before they finally seek solutions with a doctor. And even then, they don’t always get a good answer. Often, general medical providers don’t know that there are excellent solutions, and there may even be some embarrassment discussing the subject for both patients and physicians alike. The truth is that a multi-modality approach to treating fecal incontinence brings success, and today, bowel leakage can be treated in a manner that’s at once easy, painless, covered by insurance, and highly effective.
The Multi-Modality Approach to Bowel Incontinence
A multi-modality approach simply means that we employ more than one method for greater efficacy. Treatment often starts with your doctor simply understanding your symptoms. Sometimes bowel consistency is very loose or even watery, and this makes it difficult for the body to avoid leakage or accidents. In that case, one of the first places to start is attempting to improve the consistency of the stool. Often fiber, and sometimes anti-diarrheal medication like Imodium, can make a big difference. A screening colonoscopy and possible X-ray or stool studies might be ordered.
Next are simple exercises, the same ones you may have heard about for bladder control. These include Kegel exercises and holding the sphincters closed for a period of seconds, as well as leg lifts and squats. Many websites have suggested details for these kinds of pelvic floor exercises.
Sacral Nerve Modulation
As you might guess, for many people, the above two treatments are just not enough. Step two is taking steps intended to restore the tone and coordination of the muscles of the pelvic floor and the anal sphincters. And if you’re wondering how on earth you can do that, you aren’t alone. The answer is one of the best-kept secrets in medical care – technology similar to pacemakers, which restore the proper function of heart muscles. In the heart, Mother Nature has a complex system of muscles that must act together in coordination. The same is true of the pelvic floor/sphincter muscles. When nerve signaling becomes impaired in either muscle grouping, that’s when problems arise. Cardiac pacemaker technology has been a lifesaver, and pelvic floor pacemaker technology, or what we call sacral nerve modulation, has also been a lifesaver for many people in a different way.
Using sacral nerve modulation, a tiny implant is placed under the skin, which directs a small amount of electric current to the plexus of nerves that regulate the pelvic floor and sphincters. It is a simple 30-minute procedure using some local anesthetic and usually two small Band-Aids. It is covered by insurance, and, best of all, it works over 90 percent of the time.
If it is not fully successful, injection of a filler material called Solesta into the sphincter tissues helps to bulk up the rectal wall and create better closure, and thus less leakage or accidents. This treatment is also usually covered by insurance and can be done in the office in about five minutes. It sounds like it would be painful, but it is not because the injection occurs above the level of the nerve endings.
In only rare circumstances is there any need for more invasive surgery to treat bowel leakage. In cases where there has been severe trauma, or severe tissue disruption related to infection, childbirth, surgery or other disease, there can be a role for reconstructive surgery in which the sphincter muscles are tightened, a procedure that surgeons call sphincteroplasty. In some cases, additional muscle from the gracilis muscle of the leg can be harvested and rotated into the region.
In summary, the problem of bowel leakage or fecal incontinence is not something you simply have to endure. The solutions are almost always highly effective and involve minimal pain or invasiveness. To learn more, contact The Continence Center at Sasse Surgical today – we’re happy to answer your questions.