Fecal incontinence is the inability to control the release of fecal matter, which can cause significant embarrassment, social isolation, and reduced quality of life (QOL). The overall prevalence of fecal incontinence ranges from 1% to 7% in otherwise healthy individuals, and up to 10% in the elderly.
The prevalence of fecal incontinence is disproportionally higher in women, in the elderly, and in nursing home residents. There are many causes of fecal incontinence including anal sphincter trauma, local rectal pathology, neurological disorders, congenital anomalies, psychological chronic soiling, and the normal aging process. Conservative therapies include dietary changes (e.g., increased fiber), treatment with antidiarrheal agents, biofeedback combined with supportive counseling, pelvic floor exercises, and treatment with an anal plug in patients who can tolerate its use. Second-line treatments include a variety of surgical procedures.