​Diagnosing bowel dysfunction

You may be reluctant to share the details of your bowel movements, but don't be embarrassed. The more information you can give your doctor about your problem, the better he/she will be able to help you.

At The Christ Hospital Pelvic Floor Center, our multidisciplinary team provides a complete range of the most advanced diagnostic and treatment options available for bowel incontinence.

When you first meet with a specialist in pelvic floor disorders, he/she will discuss your bowel habits, diet and health history. Our experts will also do a physical exam to help diagnose your medical symptoms. Bring a list of all your medicines to your appointment. Some medications, such as sedatives, antacids or muscle relaxers, can cause bowel incontinence.

In addition to asking a series of questions about your bathroom habits, your doctor may run some common diagnostic tests, including:

  • Anal electromyography—uses electrical stimuli to measure nerve or muscle damage

  • Colonoscopy or endoscopy—uses a scope with a video camera to examine the anus and rectum

  • Defecography—an X-ray test that shows the rectum and anal canal as they change during a bowel movement

  • Digital rectal examination—a doctor uses fingers to physically exam the rectum

  • Manometry—measures the function of the sphincter muscle

  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)—uses a magnetic field and radio waves to create detailed images

  • Ultrasound—uses high-frequency sound waves to capture live images from the inside of your body

Next steps

At our Pelvic Floor Center, one of only a few centers of its kind in the U.S., colorectal specialists care for women with bowel incontinence. If you’ve been diagnosed with bowel incontinence, your doctor will discuss your medical and surgical treatment options.

Think you have bowel incontinence? Make an appointment with one of our Women's Health experts.