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Translational Andrology and Urology


Background and Objective: Urologists are central to the coordinated care of patients with spina bifida (SB), and efforts to optimize bladder management and protection of the upper tracts are well established. However, the urologist’s role in treating this population often extends to the management of bowel dysfunction which may be less defined. The methods available to the urologist for bowel management range from lifestyle modifications to medical and surgical therapy, with many patients requiring combinations of multiple strategies to combat conflicting symptoms of constipation and fecal incontinence (FI). This narrative review aims to compile a detailed algorithm of management options, for the practicing urologist to more confidently address this important facet of care. Methods: A detailed review was conducted using PubMed and Google Scholar databases to assess the contemporary literature surrounding neurogenic bowel dysfunction in adult SB. Articles published in English between 1990 and 2023 were considered. Key Content and Findings: This review presents and investigates a schema of increasingly definitive and invasive treatments for bowel dysfunction including lifestyle adaptations, pharmacological treatment, transanal irrigation (TAI), sacral neuromodulation (SNM), antegrade continence procedures, and bowel diversion. TAI and medical bowel care are beneficial in postponing or avoiding more invasive surgical interventions. Should conservative measures prove ineffective, surgical management provides the most definitive bowel control. Conclusions: Symptoms of constipation and FI that result from neurogenic bowel are best managed with an individualized approach guided by the general treatment algorithm presented in this review. Educated on the numerous appropriate options, patients will often trial methods before proceeding with more invasive treatments. Additional work is required to further evaluate management options specific to the SB populations, especially in more contemporary and largely experimental treatment modalities such as SNM.

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