Pelvic floor muscle training has been found to be an effective approach for treating fecal incontinence in children following surgical correction for Hirschprung disease. This disease can cause severe constipation or intestinal blockage due to a lack of nerve cells in the large intestine that are responsible for creating contractions in the smooth muscles of the bowels. Most of the time, Hirschprung disease is identified and corrected in infancy, but it can also be treated in childhood and sometimes in the adult patient. There are several different types of "pull-through' surgical procedures that can be used to remove the diseased portion of the large intestine and attach a functioning portion of bowel to the anus. This type of procedure can injure tissues including the internal anal sphincter, creating the issue of fecal leakage or incontinence.
A case series appears in the European Journal of Pediatric Surgery that reports on 24 cases of children who became incontinent following a Soave pull-through procedure for Hirschprung disease. 16 of the children were treated with 2 weeks of biofeedback training in the hospital followed by home program for pelvic muscle exercises, while 8 children served as a control group, receiving no therapy following the surgery. At baseline and at one year follow-up, measures were taken via anorectal manometry for resting anal canal pressure, squeeze pressure, and for rectal sensation. At one year post-surgery, the children in the treatment group were found to have significantly increased resting rectal pressure as well as squeeze pressure. Rates of fecal incontinence were significantly reduced with only 3 of the 16 children reporting occasional soiling after completing the pelvic muscle training.
This research is encouraging as biofeedback therapy is a non-invasive, inexpensive option for patients who have already been through a surgical procedure to correct a biological dysfunction. The International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders (www.iffgd.org) has a wonderful website with more information for rehabilitation providers and for patients, and they also have a website designed for kids and teens who have functional gastrointestinal issues. That website can be accessed at www.aboutkidsGI.org.