Fifteen subjects presenting with intractable constipation due to obstructive defecation, mean (SEM) duration 8.8 (1.8) years, had the inappropriate contraction and electromyographic changes in the pelvic floor muscles and external and sphincter typical of this condition. An electromyographically derived index was used to grade its severity. A self applied biofeedback device was used to allow electromyographic recording of the abnormal external anal sphincter. The subjects were encouraged to reduce the abnormal electromyographic activity on straining after instruction and training. The procedure was intended as a relearning process in which the non-relaxing activity of the pelvic floor was gradually suppressed. Biofeedback training was maintained on a domiciliary basis for a mean time of 3.1 weeks and resulted in a significant reduction in the anismus index (mean (SEM) 69.9 (7.8)% before biofeedback, mean 14 (3.9)% after biofeedback, p less than 0.01). There was an associated reduction in the time spent straining at stool and in the difficulty of defecation and an increased frequency of defecation. Defecatory video proctograms in six subjects showed improvements in the anorectal angle during straining and evacuation. The clinical benefit to the patients persisted after a mean follow up of 6.2 months.
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