Biofeedback and/or sphincter excersises for the treatment of faecal incontinence in adults

C. Norton, D. Cody, G. Hosker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review



Faecal incontinence is a particularly embarrassing and distressing condition with significant medical, social and economic implications. Anal sphincter exercises and biofeedback therapy have been used to treat the symptoms of people with faecal incontinence. However, standards of treatment are still lacking and the magnitude of alleged benefits has yet to be established.


To determine the effects of biofeedback and/or anal sphincter exercises/pelvic floor muscle training for the treatment of faecal incontinence in adults.

Search methods

We searched the Cochrane Incontinence Group Specialised Trials Register (searched 27 February 2006) and the reference lists of relevant articles.

Selection criteria

All randomised or quasi-randomised trials evaluating biofeedback and/or anal sphincter exercises in adults with faecal incontinence.

Data collection and analysis

Two reviewers assessed the methodological quality of eligible trials and two reviewers independently extracted data from included trials. A wide range of outcome measures were considered.

Main results

Eleven eligible studies were identified with a total of 564 participants. In all but three trials methodological quality was poor or uncertain. No study reported a major difference in outcome between any method of biofeedback or exercises and any other method, or compared to other conservative management. There are suggestions that rectal volume discrimination training improves continence more than sham training and that anal biofeedback combined with exercises and electrical stimulation provides more short-term benefits than vaginal biofeedback and exercises for women with obstetric-related faecal incontinence. Further conclusions are not warranted from the available data.

Authors' conclusions

The limited number of identified trials together with their methodological weaknesses do not allow a definitive assessment of the possible role of anal sphincter exercises and biofeedback therapy in the management of people with faecal incontinence. We found no evidence of biofeedback or exercises enhancing the outcome of treatment compared to other conservative management methods. While there is a suggestion that some elements of biofeedback therapy and sphincter exercises may have a therapeutic effect, this is not certain. Larger well-designed trials are needed to enable safe conclusions.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberCD002111
Number of pages41
JournalCochrane Database of Systematic Reviews
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2006


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