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Randomized clinical trial of sacral nerve stimulation for refractory constipation. BJS 2017; 104: 205-213.

Published: 25th October 2016

Authors: F. Zerbib, L. Siproudhis, P.‐A. Lehur, C. Germain, F. Mion, A.‐M. Leroi et al.

Background

Open studies have reported favourable results for sacral nerve stimulation in the treatment of refractory constipation. Here, its efficacy was assessed in a double‐blind crossover RCT.

Method

Patients with at least two of the following criteria were included: fewer than three bowel movements per week; straining to evacuate on more than 25 per cent of attempts; or sensation of incomplete evacuation on more than 25 per cent of occasions. Response to therapy was defined as at least three bowel movements per week and/or more than 50 per cent improvement in symptoms. Responders to an initial 3‐week peripheral nerve evaluation were offered permanent implantation of a pulse generator and were assigned randomly in a crossover design to two 8‐week intervals of active or sham stimulation. At the end of the two trial periods, the patients received active stimulation until the final evaluation at 1 year.

Results

Thirty‐six patients (34 women; mean(s.d.) age 45(14) years) underwent peripheral nerve evaluation. Twenty responded and received a permanent stimulator. A positive response was observed in 12 of 20 and 11 of 20 patients after active and sham stimulation periods respectively (P = 0·746). Pain related to the device occurred in five patients and wound infection or haematoma in three, leading to definitive removal of the pulse generator in two patients. At 1 year, 11 of the 20 patients with an implanted device continued to respond. Stimulation had no significant effect on colonic transit time.

Conclusion

These results do not support the recommendation of permanent implantation of a pulse generator in patients with refractory constipation who initially responded to temporary nerve stimulation. Registration number: NCT01629303 (http://www.clinicaltrials.gov).

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