Mr Cundall
Silvie Adams

Member Article

Beat embarrassing bowel bother

At Spire Washington Hospital and the Spire Newcastle Clinic, we offer a wide range of services - some of them well known, others not so widely publicised. The ones people are less familiar with tend to be newer treatments or those that are used to treat illnesses that people are sadly too embarrassed to talk about.

We have one service that fits into both of those brackets and that is neuromodulation, which can provide life-changing results for those suffering from faecal incontinence.

Here one of our leading consultants, Mr Jeremy Cundall, explains all about this debilitating condition and how two 45 minute operations can make an incredible difference.

“Faecal incontinence is a highly distressing bowel problem and it occurs when people lose the ability to control their bowel movements. Difficult enough when at home, unplanned leakages can make leaving the house highly traumatic for sufferers, particularly as some people are occasionally unaware that a leakage has taken place.

“There are two high risk groups for this problem; females who have experienced traumatic births and who start to suffer around 10-20 years on, as well the elderly. It is middle-aged women with families that I see most frequently – in fact they make up 80% of my patient group. However research has identified that between 3-5% of the adult population are affected at some time and this is a figure that increases with age.

“Those with faecal incontinence will have tried a raft of measures to try and get the condition under control; their GP may have recommended wearing pads and practising pelvic floor exercises, they have probably had a long-term change in diet and they will have implemented lifestyle modifications, including not leaving the house until nature has called.

“As you’d imagine, it’s often not enough and due to social embarrassment, sufferers of faecal incontinence may start to withdraw from daily life. Some give up their jobs because they have no confidence they will successfully navigate the day. It is a cause of shame for people who rarely tell even family and friends – many find discussing it with a doctor particularly humiliating.

“GPs can be uncertain of how best to deal with this problem and until recently, the most common treatments have been tablets or a stoma. Fortunately GPs are now able to refer patients for neuromodulation (also referred to as neurostimulation) and the results speak for themselves – over 80% of those who trial it convert to permanent use.

“In terms of the process, all patients require a clinical assessment which includes a physiology study and ultrasound to completely understand what is happening with the bowel function. We also ask them to complete a diary. We do this to check there is no potential for recovery without surgery and to monitor what progress is like.

“Where surgery is the only option, a small system similar to a cardiac pacemaker is inserted into the upper part of the buttock under general anaesthetic. It works by sending electrical impulses that stimulate the nerves to improve coordination between the brain, bowel and sphincter muscles. The whole operation only takes 30-45 minutes and patients can return home the same day. All that can be seen is the 4cm scar that is left – this is below the bikini line and usually fades in time.

“This is done as a test and if the trial is successful, a more permanent system is inserted during a second operation. For those who find this a successful course of treatment, it enables a dramatic lifestyle change. All of a sudden people’s bowel control returns, which means they can do all the things they used to. With the results lasting between 5 and 15 years, it is well worth a day in hospital – certainly the feedback we get is overwhelmingly positive.”

As you can see, neurostimulation can provide fantastic results for those who have faecal incontinence. Mr Cundall is one of just six consultants practising it in the North East however not all doctors are aware of the service so make sure you ask your GP if you’d like a referral to Spire Washington Hospital. Our private healthcare services are available via medical insurance policies and fixed price options. We can help you stop this embarrassing bowel condition taking over your life.

For more information, please visit www.spirehealthcare.com/washington or call 0191 418 8687.

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Silvie Adams .

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