Q: My mother can no longer control her bowel movements. Are there treatment options for fecal incontinence?
A: There are many causes of incontinence, including injury during childbirth or nerve injury over time. These injuries may cause a decrease in muscle strength. Some may be recognized immediately, while others are unnoticed and not a problem until later in life. Mild problems may be treated simply with dietary changes, over-the counter medica-tions and simple exercises to strengthen the anal muscles. Other cases may require prescription medications or physical therapy of the pelvic floor or bottom, called biofeedback, which can retrain and strengthen affected muscles. In the past, patients with no hope of regaining bowel control required a colostomy. Today, this procedure is rarely required. Some of the more current options include repair of the damaged sphincter muscle, injectable anal canal filling material, the sacral nerve stimulator and an artificial anal muscle. Many of these are outpatient surgical options. You should consult a specialist, like a colorectal surgeon, for more information.
-- Dr. Shauna Lorenzo-Rivero, University
Surgical Associates; member, Chattanooga- Hamilton County
Readers: To submit a question for a medical doctor, e-mail it to Clint Cooper at email@example.com. See this space each week for answers.