PURPOSE: Anal incontinence is a socially disabling problem affecting 1 to 2 percent of the population. Anal sphincter replacement is a treatment option if the problem is severe and not amenable to direct repair. The artificial bowel sphincter is an innovative approach. We report the technique for placement and the outcomes which have occurred in an initial series of 13 patients.
METHODS: The Acticon Neosphincter(R) artificial bowel sphincter consists of an inflatable cuff of silicone elastomer placed around the anal canal and connected to a pressure-regulating balloon in the iliac fossa via a control pump placed in the labium or scrotum. Thirteen patients with severe anal incontinence not amenable to other methods were treated. Causes of incontinence included obstetric damage in eight patients, surgical damage in two patients, imperforate anus in two patients, and spina bifida in one patient.
RESULTS: Surgical placement of the device was straightforward, mean operating time was 65 minutes, and median length of stay was 3.6 days. One infection of the perineal wound occurred in the early postoperative period necessitating removal of the device. In two further patients the artificial bowel sphincter was removed because of late infection in one at seven months and because of erosion through the skin in another at three months. The artificial bowel sphincter has been activated in ten patients resulting in full continence to solids and liquids except in one patient with postvagotomy diarrhea who had some leakage of liquids during episodes of diarrhea. The mean (+/- standard deviation) continence score (Cleveland Clinic system; maximal incontinence = 20) changed from 18.7 +/- 1.6 preoperatively to 2.1 +/- 2.6 after activation ( P<0.0001). Quality of life measured using a continence-specific series of up to 39 questions changed from 77 +/- 16 percent of maximal reduction of quality preoperatively to 12 +/- 19 percent postoperatively ( P<0.001).
CONCLUSIONS: The artificial bowel sphincter can be placed without technical difficulty and with low morbidity. Preliminary experience shows full restoration of continence in most patients and ease of use. Longer follow-up is needed to determine the extent of problems with infection, erosion, and mechanical failure.
(C) The ASCRS 2000