Does the Radiofrequency Procedure for Fecal Incontinence Improve Quality of Life and Incontinence at 1-Year Follow-Up?

Dis Colon Rectum 2010; 53:7 1041–1046

PURPOSE: Fecal incontinence is a socially isolating disease that causes physical and psychologic distress. Radiofrequency delivered to the anal canal is a surgical modality for fecal incontinence that has been noted to be safe and potentially effective. The aim of this study was to evaluate improvement in fecal incontinence and quality of life after the radiofrequency procedure at 1-year follow-up.

METHODS: After institutional review board approval, patients with fecal incontinence for at least 3 months were prospectively recruited between March 2003 and June 2004. Patients enrolled in the study underwent the Secca procedure. The Cleveland Clinic Florida Fecal Incontinence Score and the Fecal Incontinence Quality of Life Questionnaire were completed at the first visit and then at 12-month follow-up. Wilcoxon signed rank test was used to analyze the difference between baseline and follow-up.

RESULTS: A total of 24 patients (23 females) were enrolled in the study, and 16 were available at the 12-month follow-up visit. The main causes of fecal incontinence were either idiopathic or included obstetric injury, aging, and trauma from previous anorectal surgeries. The mean operative time was 45.5 + 8.3 minutes, and the mean number of radiofrequency lesions in the anal canal was 65.5 + 13.8. There were 3 self-limited episodes of postoperative bleeding and 1 instance of constipation that was resolved with laxatives. There were no delayed complications. The mean Cleveland Clinic Florida Fecal Incontinence Score improved from a mean of 15.6 (+3.2) at baseline to 12.9 (+4.6) at 12 months (P = .035). The mean Fecal Incontinence Quality of Life Questionnaire score improved in all subsets except for the depression subscore.

CONCLUSION: Radiofrequency is a safe, minimally invasive tool for treating patients with fecal incontinence. Improvement in fecal incontinence and quality of life was maintained at 12 months without delayed morbidity. The actual significance of this improvement is yet to be determined.