BACKGROUND: Limited data have been published regarding the long-term results of sacral nerve stimulation, or sacral neuromodulation, for severe fecal incontinence.
OBJECTIVES: The aim was to assess the outcome of sacral nerve stimulation with the use of precise tools and data collection, focusing on the long-term durability of the therapy. Five-year data were analyzed.
DESIGN: Patients entered in a multicenter, prospective study for fecal incontinence were followed at 3, 6, and 12 months and annually after device implantation.
PATIENTS: Patients with chronic fecal incontinence in whom conservative treatments had failed or who were not candidates for more conservative treatments were selected.
INTERVENTIONS: Patients with ≥50% improvement over baseline in fecal incontinence episodes per week during a 14-day test stimulation period received sacral nerve stimulation therapy.
MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Patients were assessed with a 14-day bowel diary and Fecal Incontinence Quality of Life and Fecal Incontinence Severity Index questionnaires. Therapeutic success was defined as ≥50% improvement over baseline in fecal incontinence episodes per week. All adverse events were collected.
RESULTS: A total of 120 patients (110 women; mean age, 60.5 years) underwent implantation. Seventy-six of these patients (63%) were followed a minimum of 5 years (maximum, longer than 8 years) and are the basis for this report. Fecal incontinence episodes per week decreased from a mean of 9.1 at baseline to 1.7 at 5 years, with 89% (n = 64/72) having ≥50% improvement (p < 0.0001) and 36% (n = 26/72) having complete continence. Fecal Incontinence Quality of Life scores also significantly improved for all 4 scales between baseline and 5 years (n = 70; p < 0.0001). Twenty-seven of the 76 (35.5%) patients required a device revision, replacement, or explant.
CONCLUSIONS: The therapeutic effect and improved quality of life for fecal incontinence is maintained 5 years after sacral nerve stimulation implantation and beyond. Device revision, replacement, or explant rate was acceptable, but future efforts should be aimed at improvement.