Management of faecal incontinence and constipation in adults with central neurological diseases

M Coggrave, PH Wiesel, C Norton, M Brazzelli

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74 Citations (Scopus)


People with neurological disease have a much higher risk of both faecal incontinence and constipation than the general population. There is often a fine line between the two conditions, with any management intended to ameliorate one risking precipitating the other. Bowel problems are observed to be the cause of much anxiety and may reduce quality of life in these people. Current bowel management is largely empirical with a limited research base.

To determine the effects of management strategies for faecal incontinence and constipation in people with neurological diseases affecting the central nervous system.

Search strategy
We searched the Cochrane Incontinence Group Specialised Trials Register (searched 26 January 2005), the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (Issue 2, 2005), MEDLINE (January 1966 to May 2005), EMBASE (January 1998 to May 2005) and all reference lists of relevant articles.

Selection criteria
All randomised or quasi-randomised trials evaluating any types of conservative or surgical measure for the management of faecal incontinence and constipation in people with neurological diseases were selected. Specific therapies for the treatment of neurological diseases that indirectly affect bowel dysfunction were also considered.

Data collection and analysis
Two reviewers assessed the methodological quality of eligible trials and two reviewers independently extracted data from included trials using a range of pre-specified outcome measures.

Main results
Ten trials were identified by the search strategy, most were small and of poor quality. Oral medications for constipation were the subject of four trials. Cisapride does not seem to have clinically useful effects in people with spinal cord injuries (three trials). Psyllium was associated with increased stool frequency in people with Parkinson's disease but did not alter colonic transit time (one trial). Prucalopride, an enterokinetic did not demonstrate obvious benefits in this patient group (one study). Some rectal preparations to initiate defaecation produced faster results than others (one trial). Different time schedules for administration of rectal medication may produce different bowel responses (one trial). Mechanical evacuation may be more effective than oral or rectal medication (one trial). There appears to be a benefit to patients in one-off educational interventions from nurses. The clinical significance of any of these results is difficult to interpret.

Authors' conclusions
There is still remarkably little research on this common and, to patients, very significant condition. It is not possible to draw any recommendation for bowel care in people with neurological diseases from the trials included in this review. Bowel management for these people must remain empirical until well-designed controlled trials with adequate numbers and clinically relevant outcome measures become available.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberCD002115
JournalCochrane Database of Systematic Reviews
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2001


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