Developing a Clinical Research Agenda for Fecal Incontinence
Fecal incontinence is a condition with ramifications that extend well beyond their physical manifestations. Many individuals find themselves withdrawing from their social lives and attempting to hide the problem from their families, friends, and even their doctors. The shame, embarrassment, and stigma associated with these conditions pose significant barriers to seeking professional treatment, resulting in many persons who suffer from these conditions without help. As baby boomers approach their 60s, the incidence and public health burden of incontinence are likely to increase.
Fecal incontinence is a syndrome that involves the unintentional loss of solid or liquid stool. It is serious and embarrassing. Fecal incontinence may affect individuals living at home, as well as many living in nursing homes. Although fecal incontinence affects individuals of all ages, it is more common in women and older persons. Bowel function is controlled by four factors: rectal sensation, rectal storage capacity, anal sphincter pressure, and established bowel habits. If any of these is compromised, fecal incontinence can occur. Despite its serious effects on patients, families, and society, fecal incontinence is often ignored and has been studied less than many other conditions.
It has been difficult to identify persons at risk for or affected by fecal incontinence because the condition is often not reported or diagnosed. Prevention of fecal incontinence has been hindered by limited research and incomplete knowledge about the biological causes and interacting social and environmental factors.
The workshop will include a panel of experts in epidemiology, gastrointestinal physiology, gastroenterology, colorectal surgery, urogynecology, psychology, and behavioral medicine. During the workshop, they will identify and discuss major issues in the diagnoses and treatment of fecal incontinence. In addition, the panel will examine the barriers encountered in addressing fecal incontinence. Furthermore, the panel will be charged to develop research priorities in both basic and clinical research to further advance treatment strategies for fecal incontinence.
The intended audience for this workshop is gastroenterologists, colorectal surgeons, urogynecologists, behavioralists, psychologists, and basic scientists with an interest in anorectal disorders and other health care professionals with a potential involvement in the identification, assessment, and treatment of patients with fecal incontinence.