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Why do patients with faecal impaction have faecal incontinence.
  1. N W Read,
  2. L Abouzekry


    To elucidate the phenomenon of faecal incontinence in impacted patients, manometric, radiological and other investigations were carried out in 55 elderly patients, who had impacted masses of faeces in the rectum and were incontinent of faeces and 36 elderly control subjects with no anorectal problems. Maximum basal pressure and the maximum squeeze pressure in impacted patients were not significantly different from elderly controls. Sphincter pressures were no different after disimpaction than they were with faecal masses in situ, suggesting that leakage and soiling were not caused by stretching of the anal ring or prolonged reflex inhibition of anal tone by the faecal mass. The anorectal angle was more obtuse in impacted patients than in elderly controls though there was no greater degree of perineal descent. Anal and perianal sensation was impaired in impacted patients compared with controls. Rectal sensation was also impaired in the impacted patients in that the volume in a rectal balloon that could be perceived by the subject and the volume that gave rise to a desire to defecate were much higher in impacted patients than in controls. The rectal volume required to cause anal relaxation was lower in impacted patients compared with controls though there was no reduction in the volume at which anal relaxation failed to recover its resting tone. Rectal distension elicited external sphincter contractions in 53% impacted patients compared with 80% of controls. In conclusion, faecal soiling in patients with faecal impaction is probably related to the combination of an obtuse anorectal angle and the low anal pressures, normally found in the elderly and to impaired anorectal sensation which prevents conscious contraction of the external sphincter when the internal sphincter is relaxed.

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