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What is sacral nerve stimulation for fecal incontinence?

Anthony L. Komaroff, MD
Internal Medicine
Sacral nerve stimulation (SNS) is a surgical technique for fecal incontinence (unintended passage of stool) that has a low rate of medical complications.

For this procedure, the surgeon inserts a kind of pacemaker to provide continuous electric stimulation to the anal sphincter to keep it closed. Also called sacral neuromodulation, this technique has long been used for urinary incontinence and has only more recently been adapted for fecal incontinence as well. In 2011, the FDA approved the use of this procedure for fecal incontinence based on encouraging results from medical studies, including a 2010 study of 133 patients published in Annals of Surgery. Among the patients in this study, episodes of fecal incontinence decreased from about nine per week before surgery to about two per week a full year after surgery, and three per week two years after surgery.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.