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Sacral Neuromodulation Therapy: A Promising Treatment for Adolescents With Refractory Functional Constipation

van Wunnik, Bart P. M.D.1; Peeters, Babette M.D.2; Govaert, Bas M.D., Ph.D.1; Nieman, Fred H. Ph.D.3; Benninga, Marc A. M.D., Ph.D.2; Baeten, Cor G. M.D., Ph.D.1

Diseases of the Colon & Rectum: March 2012 - Volume 55 - Issue 3 - p 278–285
doi: 10.1097/DCR.0b013e3182405c61
Original Contributions

BACKGROUND: Sacral neuromodulation therapy has been successfully applied in adult patients with urinary and fecal incontinence and in adults with constipation not responding to intensive conservative treatment. No data, however, are available on sacral neuromodulation therapy as a treatment option in adolescents with refractory functional constipation.

OBJECTIVES: This study aimed to describe the short-term results of sacral neuromodulation in adolescents with chronic functional constipation refractory to intensive conservative treatment.

DESIGN: This is a retrospective review.

SETTING: This study took place at the Department of Surgery, Maastricht University Medical Centre, The Netherlands.

PATIENTS: Thirteen patients (all girls, age 10–18 years) with functional constipation according to the ROME III criteria not responding to intensive oral and rectal laxative treatment were assigned for sacral neuromodulation.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: When improvement of symptoms was observed during the testing phase, a permanent stimulator was implanted. Patients were prospectively followed up to at least 6 months after implantation of the permanent stimulator by interviews, bowel diaries, and Cleveland Clinic constipation score. Improvement was defined as spontaneous defecation ≥2 times a week.

RESULTS: At presentation, none of the patients had spontaneous defecation or felt the urge to defecate. All patients had severe abdominal pain. Regular school absenteeism was present in 10 patients. After the testing phase, all but 2 patients had spontaneous defecation ≥2 times a week with a reduction in abdominal pain. After implantation, 11 (of 12) had a normal spontaneous defecation pattern of ≥2 times a week without medication, felt the urge to defecate, and perceived less abdominal pain without relapse of symptoms until 6 months after implantation. The average Cleveland Clinic constipation score decreased from 20.9 to 8.4. One lead revision and 2 pacemaker relocations were necessary.

LIMITATIONS: This study is limited by its small sample size, single-institution bias, and retrospective nature.

CONCLUSION: Sacral neuromodulation appears to be a promising new treatment option in adolescents with refractory functional constipation not responding to intensive conservative therapy. Larger randomized studies with long-term follow-up are required.

1 Department of Surgery, Maastricht University Medical Centre, Maastricht, The Netherlands

2 Department of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition, Emma Children's Hospital/Academic Medical Centre, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

3 Department of Clinical Epidemiology and Medical Technology Assessment, Maastricht University Medical Centre, Maastricht, The Netherlands

Financial Disclosure: Dr Baeten is a consultant for Medtronic.

Correspondence: Bart P. van Wunnik, M.D., Maastricht University Medical Centre, Postal Box 5800, 6200 AZ Maastricht, The Netherlands. E-mail:

© The ASCRS 2012