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Prospective comparison of faecal incontinence grading systems


Background Existing scales for assessing faecal incontinence have not been validated against clinical assessment, or with regard to reproducibility. They also fail to take into account faecal urgency, and the use of antidiarrhoeal medications.

Aims To establish the validity, and sensitivity to change, of existing scales and a newly designed incontinence scale.

Methods (1) Twenty three patients (21 females, median age 57 years) were prospectively evaluated by two independent clinical observers, using three established scales (Pescatori, Wexner, American Medical Systems), a newly devised scale which also includes details about urgency and antidiarrhoeal drugs, and by a 28 day diary. (2) A further 10 female patients were assessed by the same scales before and after surgery for faecal incontinence.

Results (1) Assessments by two independent clinicians correlated well. All four scales and a diary card correlated highly and significantly with the clinical impression, with the new scale reaching the highest correlation (r=0.79, p<0.001). (2) All except one score changed significantly in response to surgical treatment; the new scale showed the greatest change, at the highest level of significance (p=0.004), and correlated best with the clinicians’ assessment of change (r=0.94, p<0.001).

Conclusions Existing scales for the assessment of faecal incontinence correlate well with careful clinical impression of severity, and serve as useful and reproducible measures for comparison of patients and treatments. A newly devised scale has shown high clinical validity and utility.

  • faecal incontinence
  • grading systems
  • Abbreviations

    Crohn’s disease activity index
    American Medical Systems
    analysis of variance
    artificial bowel sphincter
  • Statistics from

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