The symptoms of neurogenic bowel dysfunction (NBD) comprise constipation and fecal incontinence. These have a major impact on quality of life and dignity. Bowel symptoms occur in the majority of patients with chronic neurological diseases like multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injury, and Parkinson’s disease. Management relies on obtaining a careful bowel history, including assessment of bowel function prior to the onset of neurological symptoms. Objective measures of NBD are available and important in terms of monitoring response for what are often intensely personal and difficult-to-elicit symptoms. Conservative management begins by establishing an effective and regular bowel regime by optimizing diet and laxative use. If this is insufficient, as seen in about half of patients, transanal irrigation has been shown to reduce NBD symptoms and improve quality of life. Failing that, there are more invasive surgical options available. This review aims to provide practical guidance for the clinician who encounters these patients, focusing on a stepwise approach to assessment, interventions, and monitoring.

F1000Research. 2019 Oct 28*** epublish ***

Anton Emmanuel

GI Physiology Unit, University College London Hospital, Euston Road, London, WC1E 6DB, UK.