Fecal Incontinence

Diagnosis & Tests

If you are having trouble controlling your bowels, your healthcare professional will:

  • ask questions about
    • how often and when loss of bowel control happens
    • the conditions that occur with the loss of control
  • check for hemorrhoids and other conditions
  • suggest seeing a specialist, such as a gastroenterologist, proctologist, or colorectal surgeon, if necessary


A specialist may use some of the following tests:

  • Sigmoidoscopy. This test involves insertion of a flexible tube fitted with a camera-like device into the rectum to find problems that may contribute to fecal incontinence. 
  • Anal manometry. This test involves using a pressure-sensitive tube to check how tightly the sphincter muscles close, and how well they respond to nerve signals. 
  • Endorectal ultrasound. A probe goes into the rectum to create a sonogram (it uses sound waves to create a picture). The purpose is to look for problems in the deeper tissues that are not visible on a camera. 
  • Anal electromyography. Electrodes are used to test the muscles for scar tissue in the pelvic floor and rectal sphincters.  
  • Proctography (also known as defecography). Liquid barium goes into the rectum using a small tube. It shows how much stool your rectum can hold and also how well it empties when you use a special toilet.

These tests may not be good for people with cognitive problems because they may not be able understand directions during the tests.


Last Updated December 2022

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