Fecal Incontinence Diagnosed by the Rome IV Criteria in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom

William E. Whitehead, Magnus Simren, Jan Busby-Whitehead, Steve Heymen, Miranda A.L. van Tilburg, Ami D. Sperber, Olafur S. Palsson

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    36 Scopus citations


    Background & Aims: The diagnostic criteria for fecal incontinence (FI) were made more restrictive in the Rome IV revision. We aimed to determine the characteristics of FI patients defined by the Rome IV criteria, assess how FI frequency and amount affect quality of life, identify risk factors, and compare prevalence values among countries. Methods: We performed an internet-based survey of 5931 subjects in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom, from September to December 2015. Subjects were stratified by country, sex, and age. Responders answered questions about diagnosis, health care use, and risk factors. We performed multivariate linear regression analysis to identify risk factors for FI. Results: FI was reported by 957 subjects (16.1%) but only 196 (3.3%) fulfilled the Rome IV criteria. Frequency of FI was less than twice a month for 672/957 subjects (70.2%) and duration was less than 6 months for 285/957 subjects (29.8%). Quality of life was significantly impaired in all subjects with FI compared to subjects with fecal continence. The strongest risk factors for FI were diarrhea, urgency to defecate, and abdominal pain. FI was more prevalent in the United States than in the United Kingdom. Between-country differences were due to less diarrhea and urgency in the United Kingdom. Conclusions: Rome IV FI prevalence is lower than previous estimates because the new criteria exclude many individuals with less frequent or short duration FI. These excluded patients have impaired quality of life. It might be appropriate to make a diagnosis of FI for all patients with FI ≥2 times in 3 months and to provide additional information on frequency, duration, and amount of stool lost to assist clinicians in treatment selection.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)385-391
    Number of pages7
    JournalClinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology
    Issue number2
    StatePublished - 1 Feb 2020


    • Accidental Bowel Leakage
    • Diarrhea
    • Quality of Life
    • Risk Factors
    • Urgency

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Hepatology
    • Gastroenterology


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