Fecal incontinence is a common problem that disproportionately affects women and the elderly and has a significant impact on the quality of life. Incontinence is often multifactorial. Anorectal manometry, anal endosonography, magnetic resonance imaging, pudendal nerve latency, and electromyography provide morphologic and physiologic assessments of the internal and external anal sphincters, rectal motor and sensory function, rectal compliance, and rectoanal reflexes. This information, in concert, provides clues to the pathophysiology of fecal incontinence and may help to guide medical, surgical, or biofeedback therapy. These tests have also been used to assess the effectiveness of the therapeutic modalities. No data are available on the cost-effectiveness of diagnostic testing in fecal incontinence. Newer techniques, including electrophysiologic testing and morphologic imaging of the anorectum, are being pursued.
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