What Is Fecal Incontinence?

Fecal incontinence is the inability to control bowel movements. Patients with fecal incontinence almost always require comprehensive care because of the potential for accompanied conditions like constipation and urinary incontinence. 

The Texas Pediatric Colorectal Program, affiliated with Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital and the physicians at McGovern Medical School at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth), offers patients with fecal incontinence a continuum of care throughout their childhood. The team of specialists in pediatric gastroenterology, urology, general surgery, neurosurgery and nutrition, understand the unique challenges faced by children with colorectal conditions. This multidisciplinary team approach has specialized expertise to help your child achieve the best possible outcome and quality of life.

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What Are the Causes of Fecal Incontinence?

Fecal incontinence can be caused by certain birth defects, including spina bifida, anorectal malformations or Hirschsprung disease. In most cases it is because of frequent and reoccurring constipation. Other causes of fecal incontinence are unknown.

What Are the Symptoms of Fecal Incontinence?

The main symptom of fecal incontinence in children is unexpected passing of stool. Often, fecal incontinence occurs due to constipation. A child who is constipated may accidentally soil his or her underpants. This often leads to embarrassment and loss of self-esteem amongst children. If your child is frequently constipated and cannot control the liquid stool (diarrhea), they should be referred to a pediatric specialist for evaluation.

What Are the Treatment Options for Fecal Incontinence?

At The Texas Pediatric Colorectal Program, the multidisciplinary team offers multiple options for patients with fecal incontinence including, dietary changes, medication management, enemas and surgery.

Dietary Changes

Often, treatment starts with dietary recommendations. Parents and children are recommended a healthy, well-balanced eating plan that is right for your child. If your child’s fecal incontinence is caused by constipation or hemorrhoids, eating more fiber and drinking more liquids can improve symptoms. Talk with your child’s doctor or a dietitian about how much fiber and liquids are right for you.

Medication Management

It is common for patients to be prescribed stool softeners, laxatives and enemas to help regulate their bowl function. In addition to medication, patients can participate in the Bowel Management Program, or “bowel boot camp,” at the UTPhysicians Pediatric Surgery Clinic. The program is an instructional and therapeutic one-week outpatient program for kids who are unable to anticipate or control their bowel activity.


As part of the medication management, enemas allow patients to flush the colon until it is partly empty. This helps to avoid stool accidents.

Surgical treatment

A small percentage of patients with fecal incontinence require surgery. The multidisciplinary team at The Texas Pediatric Colorectal Program provides patients with surgical options, including:

  • Removing and correcting the section of the patient’s colon that does not function normally
  • Malone appendicostomy: Surgically connecting the appendix to the belly button, creating an alternate way for delivery enemas through a hidden opening in the belly button instead of the anus. This procedure allows patients to develop independence by distributing their own enemas.
  • Cecostomy tube: Surgically placing a tube in the color to allow delivery of enemas through the tube instead of the anus.

Some patients may benefit from implanting a sacral nerve stimulation to help stimulate the pelvic nerves to better control bowel function.

Contact Us

If you have any questions, use the online tool below to help us connect with you. To refer a patient or schedule an appointment, please contact our clinic using the information below.

  • UT Physicians Pediatric Specialists 
    Texas Medical Center

    6410 Fannin St., Suite 500
    Houston, Texas 77030
    Phone: (832) 325-6516
  • UT Physicians Pediatric Surgery
    Texas Medical Center

    6410 Fannin St., Suite 950
    Houston, Texas 77030
    Phone: (832) 325-7234

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