Fecal Incontinence

Also known as: FI, incontinence, bowel incontinence, bowel control problems, fecal soiling.

What is fecal incontinence?

When a child does not have control over their bowel movements (past the age of toilet training- at least 4 years of age), and leaks solid or liquid (or mucous) stool from the rectum at unexpected times, it is known as fecal incontinence.

What causes fecal incontinence?

Fecal incontinence arises from abnormal sensation, motility or muscular problems of the anorectal area. Sensation can be affected in spina bifida, paraplegia and damage to the anal canal after surgery. Motility can be affected in neurological conditions and idiopathic disorders. Muscular problems that produce fecal incontinence occur in caudal regression syndromes, and anorectal malformations.

What are the symptoms of fecal incontinence?

The primary symptom is leaking of the stool unexpectedly, which can range in frequency and severity. Foul smelling gas, constipation and abdominal pain can also accompany fecal incontinence. Social problems arise in most children that are not effectively managed with a bowel management program.

What are fecal incontinence care options?

The option is to clean the colon daily with enemas. This is part of the bowel management program. Several adjustments can be made in order to modify the motility. Once a good regimen has been established an appendicostomy can be created in order to give the enemas in a more comfortable way.

Reviewed by: Juan L Calisto, MD

This page was last updated on: November 11, 2020 01:27 PM

Colorectal Center

Specialized treatment for children, adolescents and young adults with abnormalities affecting the colon, anus, rectum, urinary tract and genitals.

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What is fecal incontinence?

Dr. Juan Calisto, Director of the Colorectal Center, discusses Fecal Incontinence in this edition of  Children's Health Chats.

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Anorectal Malformation

Please see Imperforated Anus for further information.


Appendicostomy is a treatment for fecal incontinence in school-age children. Typically, the candidate for appendicostomy is a child who is managing incontinence through a bowel management program but wants more privacy and less invasive enemas in order to treat the incontinence. Learn more

Anorectal Manometry

If a person is having problems with the function of their anal sphincter or rectum, such as constipation or incontinence, an anorectal manometry may be performed. The procedure involves passing a catheter into the rectum in order to check the function of these body parts. Learn more

Enema Administration

An enema is liquid medicine delivered into the anus and rectum to relieve constipation and help with colon cleansing, among other medical uses. Learn more