A systematic review of sacral nerve stimulation mechanisms in the treatment of fecal incontinence and constipation

Emma Carrington, Judith Evers, Ugo Grossi, Philip Dinning, S Scott, P O'Connell, James Jones, C Knowles

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

    115 Citations (Scopus)


    Background: Sacral nerve stimulation (SNS) is now well established as a treatment for fecal incontinence (FI) resistant to conservative measures and may also have utility in the management of chronic constipation; however, mechanism of action is not fully understood. End organ effects of SNS have been studied in both clinical and experimental settings, but interpretation is difficult due to the multitude of techniques used and heterogeneity of reported findings. The aim of this study was to systematically review available evidence on the mechanisms of SNS in the treatment of FI and constipation. Methods: Two systematic reviews of the literature (performed in accordance with the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic reviews and Meta-Analyses framework) were performed to identify manuscripts pertaining to (a) clinical and (b) physiological effects of SNS during the management of hindgut dysfunction. Key Results: The clinical literature search revealed 161 articles, of which 53 were deemed suitable for analysis. The experimental literature search revealed 43 articles, of which nine were deemed suitable for analysis. These studies reported results of investigative techniques examining changes in cortical, gastrointestinal, colonic, rectal, and anal function. Conclusions & Inferences: The initial hypothesis that the mechanism of SNS was primarily peripheral motor neurostimulation is not supported by the majority of recent studies. Due to the large body of evidence demonstrating effects outside of the anorectum, it appears likely that the influence of SNS on anorectal function occurs at a pelvic afferent or central level. A modified figure from Griffin et al. 2011 showing effect of sacral nerve stimulation (SNS) on anal evoked cortical potentials in the anaesthesised rat.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1222-1237
    Number of pages16
    JournalNeurogastroenterology and Motility
    Issue number9
    Publication statusPublished - Sep 2014


    • Animal models of sacral nerve stimulation
    • Chronic constipation
    • Defecatory disorders
    • Fecal incontinence
    • Mechanism of action
    • Sacral nerve stimulation
    • Sacral neuromodulation


    Dive into the research topics of 'A systematic review of sacral nerve stimulation mechanisms in the treatment of fecal incontinence and constipation'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this