Neurogenic Bowel Dysfunction | Tampa General Hospital

Neurogenic Bowel 

Neurogenic bowel is the loss of normal bowel function due to a neurological condition. 

Neurogenic bowel occurs when a neurological condition affects the line of communication between the colon and the brain, which leads to difficulty controlling your bowel movements. This dysfunction can lead to an increase in bowel movements, planned or otherwise, or even a lack of them. 

Causes of Neurogenic Bowel 

Neurogenic bowel is typically caused by neurological conditions, various medical conditions or external factors like injury. Possible causes include: 

  • Spinal cord injury 
  • Stroke 
  • Nervous system diseases 
  • Post-surgery complications 
  • Tumors 

People living with spina bifida, cerebral palsy, sacral agenesis and similar congenital defects affecting the spine and nervous system are also more likely to develop neurogenic bowel or neurogenic bladder. 

Symptoms of Neurogenic Bowel 

When the brain and colon don’t communicate properly, you may have problems with full bowel movements that you don’t feel coming. Some patients may experience constipation, but with stool leakage due to the sphincter’s inability to close fully.  

Signs of neurogenic bowel include: 

  • Inability to feel when your bowel is full 
  • Upset stomach 
  • Stool leakage 
  • Constipation 
  • Diarrhea 
  • Frequent involuntary bowel movements 

Diagnosing Neurogenic Bowel 

Following a discussion with a gastroenterologist, you may be asked to keep track of your bowel movements with a stool diary and undergo physical examinations. Other methods for diagnosing neurogenic bowel include: 

  • MRI or CT scans 
  • Ultrasound imaging 
  • Electromyography 
  • Anorectal manometry 

Treating Neurogenic Bowel 

The specialists at Tampa General Hospital’s Gastroenterology Institute can help patients with neurogenic bowel develop a program to regain some control over their bowel movements. This may include: 

  • An exercise regimen 
  • Dietary changes
  • Laxative regimens 
  • Scheduled bowel movement routines 
  • Sphincter manipulation training 
  • Electrical muscle stimulation 

Other procedures may be necessary to help some patients have greater control over their bowel movements. These include: 

  • Botox® injections 
  • Surgeries, such as a colostomy or the creation of a stoma 

Some patients may even benefit from having a caregiver to further assist with bowel movement regulation. No matter what kind of bowel program a patient is on, getting the best care possible is crucial for avoiding further medical conditions that could develop as a result of a neurogenic bowel’s unpredictable movements.