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Fecal incontinence: evaluation and treatment.

Fecal incontinence affects men and women of all ages, leading to personal disability and high financial costs. The evaluation of the patient should clarify the pathophysiology of the symptoms and provide guidance in choosing the appropriate treatment. A comprehensive history and physical examination including endoscopic assessment is able to identify the cause of most cases of fecal incontinence. If necessary, functional methods can be used to confirm the diagnosis. Patient selection for suitable treatment is most important and should be based on clinical and physiologic findings. Conservative dietary or medical treatment is often effective, when the symptoms are mild. Biofeedback therapy is effective in most patients. It has no side effects and is well tolerated. Structural damage to the anus may be repaired by surgery, like sphincter repair, the best treatment of selective sphincter defects. Neoanal sphincters and artificial sphincters are the last possibility after failed surgery and before colostomy. They are less attractive because of technical difficulties and low success rate. A multidisciplinary approach to treatment has the potential to improve the outcome for patients with fecal incontinence.

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