Rectal perception testing is a recommended component of anorectal physiology testing. Although recent consensus (London) guidelines suggested criteria for categorizing hyporectal and hyper-rectal sensitivity, these were based on scant evidence. Moreover, data regarding diagnostic capabilities and clinical utility of rectal perception testing are lacking. The aims of this study were to determine the association between rectal perception testing and both clinical and physiological variables to enhance the analysis and interpretation of real-life test results.
Prospectively documented data from 1,618 (92% female) patients referred for anorectal physiology testing were analyzed for 3 rectal perception thresholds (first, urge, and maximal tolerated). Normal values derived from healthy female subjects were used to categorize each threshold into hyposensitive and hypersensitive to examine the clinical relevance of this categorization.
There was poor to moderate agreement between the 3 thresholds. Older age, male sex, and constipation were associated with higher perception thresholds, whereas irritable bowel syndrome, fecal incontinence, connective tissue disease, and pelvic radiation were associated with lower perception thresholds to some, but not all, thresholds (P < 0.01 on multivariate analysis for all). The clinical utility and limitations of categorizing thresholds into “hypersensitivity” and “hyposensitivity” were determined.
Commonly practiced rectal perception testing is correlated with several disease states and thus has clinical relevance. However, most disease states were correlated with 2 or even only 1 abnormal threshold, and agreement between thresholds was limited. This may suggest each threshold measures different pathophysiological pathways. We suggest all 3 thresholds be measured and reported separately in routine clinical testing.