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Fecal incontinence in adults: Etiology and evaluation

Kristen M Robson, MD, MBA, FACG
Anthony J Lembo, MD
Section Editor
Nicholas J Talley, MD, PhD
Deputy Editor
Shilpa Grover, MD, MPH, AGAF


Fecal incontinence has a significant social and economic impact and significantly impairs quality of life [1-5]. Fecal incontinence can contribute to the loss of the ability to live independently. [5,6]. This topic will review the etiology and evaluation of fecal incontinence in adults. Our recommendations are largely consistent with guidelines issued by the American College of Gastroenterology [7]. The management of fecal incontinence in adults is discussed in detail, separately. (See "Fecal incontinence in adults: Management".)


Fecal incontinence is defined as the involuntary loss of solid or liquid feces.

Anal incontinence is defined as the involuntary loss of solid or liquid feces or flatus.

Based on the mechanism of incontinence, fecal incontinence is divided into the following:

Urge incontinence is characterized by the desire to defecate, but incontinence occurs despite efforts to retain stool.

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Sep 06, 2017.
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