Fecal incontinence is the inability to control bowel movements. Patients with fecal incontinence almost always require comprehensive care because of the potential for accompanied conditions like constipation and urinary incontinence.
The Texas Pediatric Colorectal Program, affiliated with Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital and the physicians at McGovern Medical School at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth), offers patients with fecal incontinence a continuum of care throughout their childhood. The team of specialists in pediatric gastroenterology, urology, general surgery, neurosurgery and nutrition, understand the unique challenges faced by children with colorectal conditions. This multidisciplinary team approach has specialized expertise to help your child achieve the best possible outcome and quality of life.
Fecal incontinence can be caused by certain birth defects, including spina bifida, anorectal malformations or Hirschsprung disease. In most cases it is because of frequent and reoccurring constipation. Other causes of fecal incontinence are unknown.
The main symptom of fecal incontinence in children is unexpected passing of stool. Often, fecal incontinence occurs due to constipation. A child who is constipated may accidentally soil his or her underpants. This often leads to embarrassment and loss of self-esteem amongst children. If your child is frequently constipated and cannot control the liquid stool (diarrhea), they should be referred to a pediatric specialist for evaluation.
At The Texas Pediatric Colorectal Program, the multidisciplinary team offers multiple options for patients with fecal incontinence including, dietary changes, medication management, enemas and surgery.
Often, treatment starts with dietary recommendations. Parents and children are recommended a healthy, well-balanced eating plan that is right for your child. If your child’s fecal incontinence is caused by constipation or hemorrhoids, eating more fiber and drinking more liquids can improve symptoms. Talk with your child’s doctor or a dietitian about how much fiber and liquids are right for you.
It is common for patients to be prescribed stool softeners, laxatives and enemas to help regulate their bowl function. In addition to medication, patients can participate in the Bowel Management Program, or “bowel boot camp,” at the UTPhysicians Pediatric Surgery Clinic. The program is an instructional and therapeutic one-week outpatient program for kids who are unable to anticipate or control their bowel activity.
As part of the medication management, enemas allow patients to flush the colon until it is partly empty. This helps to avoid stool accidents.
A small percentage of patients with fecal incontinence require surgery. The multidisciplinary team at The Texas Pediatric Colorectal Program provides patients with surgical options, including:
Some patients may benefit from implanting a sacral nerve stimulation to help stimulate the pelvic nerves to better control bowel function.
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