BACKGROUND: Constipation and fecal incontinence affect 68% of patients with multiple sclerosis, but management is empirical. Transanal irrigation has been used successfully in patients with neurogenic bowel dysfunction.
OBJECTIVE: The aim of this study was to evaluate the effect of transanal irrigation on the bowel symptoms and general health status in these patients and the characteristics of those that had successful treatment and to obtain data for power calculations necessary for future randomized controlled studies.
DESIGN: This was a prospective observational study in which pre- and posttreatment questionnaires (bowel symptoms and health status) were compared. Patients for whom treatment resulted in at least 50% improvement in bowel symptoms were considered responders. Baseline variables including anorectal physiology tests and rectal compliance were compared between responders and nonresponders.
SETTINGS: This study was conducted at a specialist neurogastroenterology clinic, tertiary referral center.
PATIENTS: Included were 30 patients who had multiple sclerosis and constipation, fecal incontinence, or both.
INTERVENTION: Transanal irrigation was performed.
MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: The primary outcomes measured were the Wexner Constipation and Wexner Incontinence scores. The secondary outcomes was the SF-36 health survey. All scores were recorded before and after 6 weeks of treatment.
RESULTS: At 6 weeks posttreatment, the Wexner Constipation score significantly improved (12 (8.75/16) pretreatment vs 8 (4/12.5) posttreatment, p = 0.001), as well as the Wexner Incontinence score (12 (4.75/16) pretreatment vs 4 (2/8) posttreatment, p < 0.001). The SF-36 score did not improve significantly(51.3 ± 7.8 pretreatment vs 50.4 ± 7.8 posttreatment, p = 0.051). Sixteen patients were responders and had higher baseline Wexner Incontinence scores (14 (11/20) responders vs 9 (4/15) nonresponders, p = 0.038) and SF-36 (53.9 ± 6.3 responders vs 47.9 ± 7.8 nonresponders, p = 0.027), as well as greater maximum tolerated volume to rectal balloon distension (310 (220/320) mL responders vs 168 (108/305) mL nonresponders, p = 0.017) and rectal compliance (15.2 (14.5/17.2) mL/mmHg responders vs 9.2 (7.2/15.3) mL/mmHg nonresponders, p = 0.019).
LIMITATIONS: This study was limited by its small sample size and the lack of control group with alternative treatment.
CONCLUSIONS: Transanal irrigation is effective to treat bowel symptoms in patients with multiple sclerosis. Responders (53%) had higher baseline incontinence symptoms and better perception of their health, as well as a more capacious and compliant rectum.