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Sacral nerve stimulation for faecal incontinence

Pillinger, Stephen H.; Gardiner, Angela; Duthie, Graeme S.


Stephen H. Pillinger

Angela Gardiner

Graeme S. Duthie


Faecal incontinence is a common problem. Conservative measures are effective in a significant proportion of patients. Failure of conservative management has until recently meant recourse to surgical intervention. Surgical treatment is often associated with disappointing results. Recently, sacral nerve stimulation (SNS) has been developed as a minimally invasive, effective technique for idiopathic and acquired faecal incontinence. The technique uses chronic low-level electrical stimulation of the sacral nerves, or neuromodulation, to produce a clinically beneficial effect on the distal colon and rectum, the pelvic floor and the anal sphincter complex. SNS is a 2-stage procedure: a diagnostic stage - temporary percutaneous nerve evaluation (PNE), and a therapeutic stage - permanent SNS. The predictive value of PNE is high, and the surgical trauma and morbidity of both procedures extremely low. The technique has been adapted from its original application in urinary dysfunction. It is almost impossible to produce level 1 evidence for this type of intervention; however, the results are superior to other interventions. Patient selection criteria are evolving, but there is a growing body of evidence that supports its use as first-line treatment for faecal incontinence in patients where conservative measures have failed.


Pillinger, S. H., Gardiner, A., & Duthie, G. S. (2005). Sacral nerve stimulation for faecal incontinence. Digestive surgery, 22(1-2), 1-5. doi:10.1159/000084344

Journal Article Type Review
Acceptance Date Dec 31, 2005
Online Publication Date May 11, 2005
Publication Date 2005
Print ISSN 0253-4886
Electronic ISSN 1421-9883
Publisher Karger Publishers
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 22
Issue 1-2
Pages 1-5
Keywords SNS, sacral nerve stimulation, incontinence, faecal
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