Fatigue rate index as a new measurement of external sphincter function
PURPOSE: Assessment of sustained voluntary contraction of the external sphincter is helpful in evaluating the patient who has a defecation disorder on presentation. A new index of external sphincter function is described. METHOD: A prospective registry of patients referred for computerized anal manometry using standard protocols was reviewed. Patients were grouped by primary symptoms; those with overlapping complaints were excluded. The rate of fatigue, defined as the change in stationary squeeze over a 40-second period of voluntary contraction, was calculated by linear regression analysis. Fatigue rate index, a calculated measure of time necessary for the external sphincter to become completely fatigued, was determined to permit comparison of external sphincter fatigue in patients with different complaints. RESULTS: Twenty-six healthy volunteers (15 women; mean age, 45 years), 33 patients with a primary complaint of anal seepage (13 women; mean age, 53 years), 75 patients with gross incontinence (61 women; mean age, 53 years), and 49 patients with severe constipation (41 women; mean age, 45 years) were evaluated. Mean resting and squeeze pressures were 55 mmHg and 107 mmHg for volunteers, 37 mmHg and 97 mmHg for patients with seepage, 30 mmHg and 49 mmHg for incontinent patients, and 56 mmHg and 93 mmHg for constipated patients. Pudendal neuropathy, as evidenced by a prolonged pudendal nerve terminal motor latency (>2.4 ms), was identified in 13 percent of volunteers, 32 percent of patients with seepage, 54 percent of incontinent patients, and 38 percent of constipated patients. Mean fatigue rate index was 3.3 minutes for volunteers, 2.3 minutes for seepage patients, 1.5 minutes for incontinent patients, and 2.8 minutes for constipated patients. Compared with volunteers and patients with seepage, the incontinent patients had a significantly shorter fatigue rate index (P<0.05; Student'st-test), which was independent of the variations in resting pressure (P<0.05; two-way analysis of variance). CONCLUSION: The external anal sphincter is normally subject to fatigue. Patients with worsening degrees of incontinence have a predictably lower fatigue rate index. Fatigue rate index is a simple measure of external sphincter integrity, which may be used in assessment of sphincter function and future treatment protocols.